$1.75 Million Verdict in Wrongful Death Claim Due to Sepsis

Michelle Cohen's estate sued Oasis Health and Rehabilitation Center for wrongful death and medical malpractice due to delayed diagnosis and treatment of a urinary tract infection, resulting in sepsis and her death; the jury awarded $1,758,230 in damages.

$1.75 Million Verdict in Wrongful Death Claim Due to Sepsis

ByAnjelica Cappellino, J.D.

|

Published on May 19, 2023

|

Updated onMay 23, 2023

$1.75 Million Verdict in Wrongful Death Claim Due to Sepsis

Case Overview

Case Name: Nicholas S. Cohen, as Personal Representative of the Estate of Michelle A. Cohen v. Lake Worth Enterprise, LLC d/b/a Oasis Health and Rehabilitation Center; Brightsnfcare LLC d/b/a Carestrong; ES, LLC; Eli Strohli, individually; Roland Menezil, individually, No. 50-2017-CA-005918 (Palm Beach County Circuit Court, 15th, Florida)

Case Type:

Wrongful death/Medical malpractice; delayed diagnosis; delayed treatment; failure to consult

Injury:

Death resulting from sepsis, organ failure, coma, tachycardia, kidney failure, hypotension, and urinary tract infection

Plaintiff Attorneys:

Thomas J. Chapman and Christa McCann of NextGen Injury Law for the Estate of Michelle A. Cohen

Defense Attorneys:

Peter J. Molinelli and Paul Milberg of Quintairos, Prieto, Wood & Boyer, P.A. for defendants Lake Worth Enterprise LLC, Brightsnfcare LLC, ES, LLC, Eli Strohli, and Roland Menezil

Case Outcome:

  • Verdict in favor of plaintiffs

Verdict Award:

  • $1,758,230 in total –
  • $1,750,000 for pain and suffering and loss of parental companionship, guidance, and instruction
  • $8,230 for funeral costs

What Happened?

On February 5th, 2016, decedent Michelle Cohen (age 61) was admitted into Oasis Health and Rehabilitation Center, a rehabilitative facility located in Lake Worth Beach, Florida. Ms. Cohen had recently undergone treatment for a urinary tract infection, and her rehabilitative treatment was meant to address residual weakness that she was experiencing. However, while undergoing treatment at Oasis Health, Ms. Cohen developed another infection of her urinary tract. Ms. Cohen was eventually transferred to a hospital on March 7th, 2016. The hospital diagnosed her with hypotension and tachycardia. She required intubation. She then developed urosepsis that ultimately led to failure of her kidneys and other organs. On April 12th, 2016, Ms. Cohen passed away from complications related to the infection.

The Lawsuit’s Allegations and Trial Testimony

Ms. Cohen’s son, Nicholas Cohen, on behalf of himself and Ms. Cohen’s estate, filed a lawsuit against Lake Worth Enterprise LLC, which is the operator of Oasis Health and Rehabilitation Center, as well as the facility’s owners, Eli Strohli, Roland Menezil, and ES, LLC. Plaintiff also filed suit against Brightsnfcare, LLC, Oasis Health’s manager. The lawsuit alleged that the facility and its staff failed to properly treat Ms. Cohen and that their conduct constituted malpractice and vicarious liability as to its staff’s actions. Prior to trial, the state settled with the three facility owners and Brightsnfcare, LLC. Lake Worth Enterprise, LLC was the only defendant that proceeded to trial.

At trial, plaintiff claimed that Ms. Cohen’s subsequent infection was the direct result of Oasis Health and Rehabilitation Center’s nurses failing to arrange a urological evaluation that was ordered by the facility’s physician upon her arrival. Plaintiff also alleged that the nurses ignored symptoms of a second infection, which included urine discoloration, excessive perspiration, weight loss, incoherence, and mumbling.

The defendant countered that an immediate urological evaluation was not necessary, as Ms. Cohen’s symptoms progressed weeks after. The defendant also argues it acted appropriately and immediately hospitalized Ms. Cohen once her condition deteriorated.

Expert Specialties

The plaintiff presented testimony from experts in the fields of urology and nursing, who established that had Ms. Cohen’s symptoms been investigated and treated sooner, the infection’s progression and her subsequent death could have been prevented. The defendant presented its own expert testimony in the field of geriatrics.

Who Won?

After a week-long trial, the six-person jury unanimously found the defendant liable and awarded damages in the amount of $1,758,230. An amount of $8,230 was awarded for funeral costs, and the remaining amount was awarded for Nicholas Cohen’s pain and suffering and the loss of parental companionship, guidance, and instruction.

Key Takeaways

Although urinary tract infections are very common, failure to timely treat them can lead to life-threatening sepsis and even death, as Ms. Cohen’s case illustrates. About 30% of sepsis cases originate in the urinary system, and if left untreated, mortality rates can reach 40%. Urinary tract infections are caused by bacteria, and as new bacteria emerge and develop (some of which can be antibiotic resistant), the health care industry’s standard for treatment and the requisite standard of care for legal purposes may also evolve as time passes.

About the author

Anjelica Cappellino, J.D.

Anjelica Cappellino, J.D.

Anjelica Cappellino, Esq., a New York Law School alumna and psychology graduate from St. John’s University, is an accomplished attorney at Meringolo & Associates, P.C. She specializes in federal criminal defense and civil litigation, with significant experience in high-profile cases across New York’s Southern and Eastern Districts. Her notable work includes involvement in complex cases such as United States v. Joseph Merlino, related to racketeering, and U.S. v. Jimmy Cournoyer, concerning drug trafficking and criminal enterprise.

Ms. Cappellino has effectively represented clients in sentencing preparations, often achieving reduced sentences. She has also actively participated in federal civil litigation, showcasing her diverse legal skill set. Her co-authored article in the Albany Law Review on the Federal Sentencing Guidelines underscores her deep understanding of federal sentencing and its legal nuances. Cappellino's expertise in both trial and litigation marks her as a proficient attorney in federal criminal and civil law.