Widow of deceased man testifies in nursing home trial

By Jon Campisi | Aug 5, 2011

The widow of a man whose family is suing medical care facilities for negligence tearfully testified from a wheelchair Thursday, evoking memories of her deceased husband and the strong bond he had with his kin.

Joyce Mackey was the final witness called in the ongoing trial pitting a nursing home and a few hospitals against a family who allegedly watched their patriarch suffer greatly from pressure ulcers in the months leading to his death.

“Was he a good father,” plaintiff’s attorney Bennie Lazzara, of the firm Wilkes & McHugh, asked Joyce Mackey, the widow of Marcel Mackey, Sr., who died in May 2008 after a series of health problems.

“Yes,” the widow responded.

On trial are Philadelphia-based nursing home Willow Terrace, Albert Einstein Medical Center and Albert Einstein Healthcare Network, Thomas Jefferson University Hospitals, St. Agnes Continuing Care Center, St. Agnes Long Term Care, LLP, Methodist Hospital, and Mercy Health System.

The plaintiff, Camay Williams, Mackey’s adult daughter, who is suing in her capacity as executrix of her father’s estate, alleges that continuous incidents of neglect led to her father developing painful pressure ulcers, which eventually contributed to his death.

Defense attorneys argue that a number of factors led to Mackey’s death, including pre-existing health conditions.

Mackey suffered from diabetes among other ills and ailments.

On Thursday, Joyce Mackey, who was married to her husband for nearly 50 years, recalled her husband’s love of boxing, horror movies and family time.

She also recalled visits with her husband while he was at St. Agnes, where he was sent to recuperate after spending time at Hahnemann University Hospital for treatment of a stroke.

Lazzara asked Mackey if her husband recognized her when she went to visit him. She answered in the affirmative.

“How did you know,” the attorney asked her.

“His eyes spoke and he’d hold my hand,” Mackey responded.

Mackey also testified that she could similarly tell when her husband was uncomfortable and in pain.

“Did you ever see him out of bed when he was at St. Agnes,” Lazzara asked.

“No,” was her response.

Lazzara asked Mackey if nurses at St. Agnes acted in a responsible manner, tending to her husband’s needs while he was at the facility.

Mackey responded with “sometimes.”

It was after St. Agnes that Marcel Mackey was taken to Methodist Hospital, and after that, the Willow Terrace nursing home.

At Willow Terrace, Mackey said she recalls once inquiring why here husband didn’t appear “washed up and changed.” The response she received on the part of staff­–nurses were doing their best, but there were others to attend to.

Mackey also testified that she once recalled seeing her husband’s armed tied down to his bed at Willow Terrace. The staff told the woman it was for his own good; he had been trying to pull himself out of bed.

Mackey also testified that it was at Willow Terrace that she first noticed her husband’s bedsore, or pressure ulcer.

“I screamed when I saw him,” she said. “He had this big, big, big red spot on him.”

Mackey wrapped up her testimony by reflecting on her relationship with Marcel Mackey, who she said was a great father and grandfather.

“You still miss him,” Lazzara asked.

“Yes,” Mackey responded.

“And you still love him,” the attorney concluded.

“Yes,” she said, before being led out of the courtroom in her wheelchair with tears in her eyes.

Mackey’s testimony rested the plaintiff’s case.

After the 12-member jury was led from the courtroom, the three defense attorney’s present, Michael Sabo, Michael Doyle and William Pugh, made separate, but similar, motions asking Judge Ricardo C. Jackson to scrap the punitive damages claim against their respective clients.

“The issue of punitive damages is considered an extreme remedy by the courts of Pennsylvania,” said Sabo, who represents Willow Terrace, as well as Albert Einstein Healthcare Network and Albert Einstein Medical Center.

“We haven’t seen any evidence of intentional acts on the part of the caregivers at Willow Terrace … and Albert Einstein.”

Plaintiff’s attorney Pete Giglione disagreed, saying the case shows there were acts on the part of the defendants that rose above mere gross negligence to the level of recklessness.

“This is potential criminal stuff that is going on,” Giglione said, his voice rising, noting Pennsylvania has a criminal statute on the books with regard to neglect of a care-dependent person. “These are potential criminal acts and they should be punished for it.”

Doyle and Pugh, the defense attorney’s who represent the remaining defendants, argued similarly for withdrawal of punitive claims against their clients.

In the end, Judge Jackson denied all three motions. The denial means the claims will go to the jury for a decision on punitive damages.

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