A nurse who says she was fired for refusing to double dose nursing home residents with behavioral problems was awarded a $5.2 million verdict by an Illinois jury.
The whistleblower nurse also alleged that she was ordered to falsify or omit reports of suspicious injuries to residents, according to the lawsuit.
The nurse worked for a large nursing home company, Heritage Health, that runs over 50 facilities in the area. She worked for the facility for about a year and a half as a licensed practical nurse before she was let go. She currently works full-time at another nursing home.
According to the whistleblower nurse’s attorney, “Ms. Wesemann refused to follow the director of nursing’s orders to ‘drop a pill’ or double-dose agitated residents with anti-anxiety medications, and refused to delete or omit records of suspicious injuries on residents,” leading to her termination.
After an eight-day trial, the jury awarded the whistleblower nurse $5 million in punitive damages along with wages and benefits and emotional distress. According to court records, it took the jury about two hours to deliberate before coming to a decision.
The whistleblower nurse’s attorney stated the jury determined the award after hearing “extensive evidence that Heritage Enterprises management employees failed to report, and indeed hid instances of abuse and neglect, and encouraged their employees to do the same.”
Heritage Health employs more than 4,000 people at its various facilities.
“We, at Heritage Enterprises Inc., are deeply disappointed in the verdict delivered in the case of Wesemann v. Heritage Manor-Dwight LLC. We have disputed and continue to dispute and deny the assertions of the plaintiff in this matter,” said an attorney for Heritage in a statement.
“We fully intend to exercise all available legal remedies to contest this result,” he continued. “Until the legal process concludes, we will have no further comment.”
Becoming a Whistleblower
While federal, state and local officials investigate entities for violations of the law, including nursing home abuse, medical and business fraud, and other violations, employees of these companies are often the key to stopping illegal acts.
The federal False Claims Act and certain state laws protect employees who “blow the whistle” on their employers’ illegal activities. Whistleblower nurses and other employees are protected from retaliation by their employer under the act and, if they are fired for reporting, they can lodge a wrongful termination lawsuit against their employer.
Additionally, the False Claims Act provides a monetary award to whistleblowers if their lawsuit is successful or if the parties reach a settlement. Under the law, whistleblower awards can be between 15 and 30 percent of the verdict or settlement. These awards may be substantial because verdicts and settlements can run into the millions of dollars in whistleblower lawsuits.
If you’re concerned about your employer’s business practices, contact Bradley/Grombacher today. The attorneys at Bradley/Grombacher are currently investigating whistleblower claims.