On Tuesday, November 8, 2011, a division of the Colorado Court of Appeals heard arguments from counsel on SavaSeniorCare’s appeal of the verdict entered against it in Reigel v. SavaSeniorCare et al. An Adams County jury entered a verdict against SavaSeniorCare’s Thornton nursing and rehabilitation facility, Alpine Living Center, in the amount of $450,000.00 stemming from the death of Dennis Reigel, a former resident of Alpine, as well as for the extreme and outrageous conduct that facility displayed toward his wife.
The primary issue argued on appeal was whether the trial court erred in instructing the jury on what is known as the Loss of a Chance Doctrine. SavaSeniorCare argued, in essence, that there should be no way for a patient’s family to prevail against the nursing home if the nursing home resident simply lost a chance for treatment due to the nursing home’s failure or refusal to timely transfer the resident to a hospital. In the Reigel case, Dennis Reigel, 66, suffered a heart attack at Alpine. His wife repeatedly asked for medical attention and requested that her husband be transferred to a hospital, but was told that Dennis was fine and was made to feel that she was overreacting. When Dennis was finally transferred to the hospital, he was in critical condition and the window of time for performing a life-saving angioplasty had lapsed. The hospital records reflect that his heart attack had occurred some 24-48 hours earlier.
The jury was given both the Loss of a Chance instruction and the stock jury instruction for medical causation (i.e., the facility’s negligence must have been a cause of the wrongful death). The Law Offices of J.M. Reinan argued that the Loss of a Chance Doctrine is the law in Colorado and even if that instruction is determined to have been given in error, such error was harmless because the jury also received the stock causation instruction.
The Court of Appeals is expected to rule on this and the other issues before it within the next few months.