New Bedford Man Wins Wrongful Death Lawsuit After Mother Dies Choking on a Clam
FAIRHAVEN (1420 WBSM) — The son of an 88-year-old Acushnet woman who died during a brief stay at a Fairhaven nursing home more than seven years ago has won a wrongful death lawsuit after a lengthy court battle with healthcare providers.
Kathryn Miller was staying at Alden Court while recovering from hip surgery in 2015 when she apparently choked and suffocated on a clam, according to court documents.
Following an eight-day trial, a jury on Monday found that the healthcare groups that own and operate Alden Court were negligent in Miller's death, awarding her son Steven over $1 million in damages and interest.
Steven Miller, a New Bedford resident, said his mother had spent just 13 days at the nursing home when she died suddenly in March 2015, from what the medical examiner deemed asphyxiation due to a "food bolus," or a clump of pre-digested food.
According to court documents, Kathryn Miller regularly wore dentures and was given a granulated food diet at Alden Court — a prescribed diet that did not allow her to eat a whole clam.
Emergency first responders said that nursing home personnel had told them Miller had just finished eating, and said they pulled "a large piece of food" later identified as a clam from her airway.
But the nursing home and its parent company claimed that Miller had died after a seizure, stating that their records indicate she ate three hours before the incident, and that the home does not serve clams.
It is unclear where the clam came from.
Miller's son filed a wrongful death lawsuit on March 1, 2017 alleging negligence on the part of Alden Court owner Metro Health Foundation of Massachusetts, Inc. and manager Gordon Healthcare Management Group, Inc.
After years of court filings and minor battles including multiple motions to dismiss and a medical malpractice tribunal, the trial began in Taunton Superior Court on Oct. 17, 2022.
In its Oct. 31 decision, the jury found that the healthcare companies were negligent — but not grossly negligent — in Miller's death, awarding Steven Miller more than $1,031,000 in damages and accrued interest.
"It feels great that justice was served, and that the jury saw the truth," Miller told WBSM News. "A big weight has been lifted off me."
"It's been very stressful," he said of the more than seven-year ordeal. "We fought many battles along the way, but I told my attorneys I'm not backing down, I'm not giving in, and I'm not giving up."
Miller added, "It feels good to know that the little guy can win."