Jury returns $1.25 million verdict against nurse, agency in death of woman, 81

December 22, 2004|By Julie Bell | Julie Bell,SUN STAFF

A federal jury in Baltimore has returned a $1.25 million verdict against a nurse and the temporary agency that employed her, finding them liable in the violent death four years ago of an 81-year-old patient at Franklin Square Hospital Center.

Ethel R. Barlow, now 54, of Memphis, Tenn., was employed by Medical Express and its parent, AMN Healthcare, when she walked into the room of Ruth F. Bowen in November 2000.

The licensed practical nurse inexplicably straightened Bowen's arms, ripping them from their joints and breaking the elbows - which were permanently contracted and locked in a bent position, Bowen's estate argued in the lawsuit.

Medical records show Bowen -bedridden and in declining health from Parkinson's disease - then bled and died from the injuries.

The jury found Monday that Barlow had caused Bowen's death. It awarded her estate $750,000 for pain and suffering and awarded $250,000 to her son, Lloyd S. Bowen Jr. of Joppa, and $250,000 to her daughter, Sheridan R. Jacobs of Woodbine.

Lloyd S. Bowen Jr. declined comment through his attorney, Marvin Ellin. Medical Express issued a statement through its attorney saying it takes pride in providing "highly credentialed, qualified and caring healthcare professionals." The company did not respond to a question about whether it plans to appeal.

"While the company does not generally comment on its legal proceedings, we are saddened by the circumstances surrounding Mrs. Bowen's death and are disappointed in the outcome of this matter," the company said.

Franklin Square, which suspended Barlow's privileges immediately after the incident in 2000, was not a defendant in the trial. Maryland Board of Nursing records show Barlow's nursing license was not renewed.

Assistant Baltimore County State's Attorney James O. Gentry Jr. said he was glad for Bowen's family, whom he came to know while prosecuting Barlow on charges of manslaughter and abuse of a vulnerable adult.

Barlow's original trial in November 2002 resulted in a hung jury. Gentry said Barlow later entered an Alford plea to charges of abusing a vulnerable adult - allowing her to be found guilty without admitting guilt. He said she was sentenced to three years in prison, although all but the time she had served was suspended. She was placed on probation for three years.

Gentry said he remains mystified by one thing: "We could never figure out motive."

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