On Thursday a Hinds County Circuit Court jury returned a 12–0 defense verdict in a nursing home negligence case against Lakeland Nursing and Rehabilitation Center, which is in the Tara Cares system.

The plaintiff alleged that the nursing home’s negligence resulted in dehydration, fecal impaction and death. The decedent was a resident of Lakeland for 13 days between 2 hospitalizations. Plaintiff blamed her severe dehydration on the staff at Lakeland not giving sufficient fluids. 

Lakeland defended that the decedent had end state Alzheimer’s that was charted by many doctors and the death certificate listed Alzheimer’s as the cause of death. Defendant argued that the dehydration was caused by the decedent’s body shutting down from Alzheimer’s and she was no longer able to process food and liquids due to kidney and liver failure.

The defense argued that the decedent’s condition was caused by progressive dementia and Alzheimer’s. 

Brad Smith, La’Verne Edney and Jeremy Clay at Baker Donelson in Jackson represented the defendant. Shane and Rebecca Langston represented the plaintiff.

Judge Winston Kidd presided in the case.

All 12 members of the jury were African-American.

My Take:

This verdict is an example of how conventional wisdom is often wrong.

Conventional wisdom is that a defendant can’t get a defense verdict in a Hinds County case tried to an African-American jury. That’s wrong.

African-Americans serving on juries in Hinds County are, in general, open minded to both sides’ presentations. The defendant has just as good of a chance to win them over as the plaintiff.  

One of the big problems with the plaintiff-leaning perception of Hinds County is that often no one hears about defense verdicts because they aren’t publicized.

For instance, there was a defense verdict in a medical malpractice case in Hinds County a few weeks ago that I haven’t read about anywhere. I haven’t written about it because all I know was that it was a defense verdict and, I believe, the lawyers were Whit Johnson (defense) and Dennis Sweet (plaintiff).

Defendants win civil trials in Hinds County all the time. But some people want to argue that it’s a plaintiff venue because plaintiffs can win a big verdict in the county.

I’m not saying that there are not a few venues in Mississippi where a plaintiff may start with an advantage. But I’m saying that Hinds County is not one of those venues and is unfairly lumped into that category. Just because a plaintiff doesn’t start in the same hole in Hinds County as in many of Mississippi’s 82 counties does not mean that the plaintiff has an advantage.