When a Maryland nursing home accepts a resident into its care, the home takes on a responsibility to provide a certain level of care to the resident. Of course, this includes ensuring that the resident’s most basic physical and health-care needs are met, but it also requires that the home maintain the facility in a safe and clean manner. When nursing home management fails to live up to this standard, the home may be held liable through a Maryland nursing home negligence lawsuit.

Nursing Home HallwayMany nursing homes accept financial assistance from the federal government, through programs such as Medicare and Medicaid. By doing so, the nursing home also takes on an obligation to provide the type of care to residents that the government expects. A recent news article discusses a federal lawsuit that was recently settled after disturbing discoveries were made regarding the condition of the facilities.

The allegations arose from inspections that occurred back in 2008 and 2009. Inspectors noted that the home was infested with rats, mice, and cockroaches. One resident’s account was truly shocking. Evidently, the bedridden resident was complaining of leg pain to nursing home staff. When the staff member pulled back the blankets covering the resident’s lower body, a snake jumped out at her.

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Given the rash of Maryland nursing home abuse and neglect allegations that have been made over the past decade, it is no surprise that families of nursing home residents are concerned about their loved ones’ safety. In fact, the growing concern has led a number of states – including Maryland – to allow for the families of residents to place hidden video cameras in their loved ones’ rooms. Of course, in order to do so, the family member must obtain their loved one’s permission.

CameraThe use of video recording in nursing homes has greatly increased transparency in an industry that is known for denying liability in the face of all kinds of allegations. In fact, there have been substantiated cases of nursing home abuse in which the employee initially denies the abuse occurred, only to be confronted with a video that shows otherwise.

A recent news article discusses the video evidence captured by the family of one man who died from complications related to stage three pressure ulcers that he developed while in a nursing home. According to the article, a concerned daughter placed a hidden camera in her father’s room. The video showed a nursing attendant forcefully trying to get the elderly man off the bed and pushing him into a wheelchair. Later, the video shows her dousing the man in mouthwash, which contains alcohol and may contribute to pressure ulcers.

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When selecting a nursing home for a loved one, there is only so much vetting that can be done. At some point, family members must place trust in a nursing home to provide their loved one with the care they need and deserve. All too often, however, residents of Maryland nursing homes end up suffering abuse or neglect at the hands of their caretakers.

Dark RoomNursing home abuse can take a number of forms. Common instances of abuse involve a frustrated employee who takes their anger out on an innocent resident. However, in some cases, the allegations of abuse are even more disturbing. Indeed, sexual abuse in Maryland nursing homes appears to be far more common than most people understand.

Nursing homes and their employees are responsible to provide all residents with a certain level of care. While nursing home employees cannot be held liable for every adverse health event that occurs at their facility, when a patient is injured due to the negligent or intentional conduct of a nursing home employee, the injured party and their family may be entitled to financial compensation through a Maryland nursing home lawsuit. Sexual abuse certainly falls into this category.

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Maryland nursing home lawsuits are not always results of glaring, intentional abuse. In many cases, lawsuits arise after a nursing home or another long term care facility fails to properly care for a resident. Spotting neglect can be difficult, since many residents are elderly and sick already. However, families must remain vigilant in order to identify instances of neglect. Families should look for certain potential signs, such as poor personal hygiene, including poor dental health; lack of mobility, which may be caused by remaining bedridden for too long; unexplained injuries, such as bruises and broken bones; unsanitary living conditions and inadequate security; physical symptoms from lack of nutrition; and psychological issues, including anger, resentment, and depression.

Hospital BedIn cases of extreme neglect that result in the death of a resident, family members can bring a wrongful death claim against the nursing home. Maryland’s Wrongful Death Act allows a claim to be brought against a person or entity “whose wrongful act causes the death of another.” Generally, the claim must be made within three years of the family member’s death.

Lawsuit Alleges Resident’s Death Caused by Improper Care

A 74-year-old woman died after a nursing home allegedly failed to properly care for the woman. According to a news report covering a recently filed lawsuit filed by the woman’s family, the nursing home failed to properly care for her hygiene, to properly reposition her during bedrest, and to provide her with adequate nutrition and hydration, which caused the woman pressure sores and infections, respiratory failure, swallowing problems, septic shock, and pneumonia, leading to her death.

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Earlier this month, a state appellate court issued a written opinion in a wrongful death case involving allegations that a nursing home failed to properly care for a resident. The focus of the court’s analysis was on the issue of an arbitration clause that was contained in a pre-admission contract signed by one of the resident’s daughters on the resident’s behalf. Ultimately, the court held that the arbitration clause should be enforced, resulting in the plaintiff being required to resolve the case through binding arbitration.

GavelThe Facts of the Case

The plaintiff was the daughter of a nursing home resident who died while in the care of the defendant nursing home. Before her death, the resident had fallen six times while a resident of the nursing home. Prior to the resident’s admission into the nursing home, one of the resident’s other daughters executed a pre-admission contract on her mother’s behalf. The contract stated that the parties agreed to submit any case arising out of the resident’s stay at the home to an arbitration panel, rather than resolving the case through the court system. Maryland nursing home residents often sign similar agreements.

At the time the contract was signed by the resident’s daughter, the daughter had power of attorney over her mother’s affairs. Specifically, the power of attorney document gave the daughter control over “all lawful health care decisions” of her mother.

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Nursing homes are responsible for caring for their residents. However, there are countless instances of nursing home abuse or neglect in Maryland and throughout the country. Neglect of a Maryland nursing home resident includes a failure to care for a resident in a way that would avoid harm or pain, or a failure to react to a harmful situation.

Hospital BedUnder the Code of Maryland Regulations (COMAR) 10.07.02.12, a nursing home must have a licensed nurse on duty 24 hours a day to provide bedside care in order to ensure that the resident:  receives proper treatments, medications, and diet; receives proper care to prevent ulcers and deformities; is well-groomed, comfortable, and clean; is protected from accidents, injuries, and infections; receives rehabilitative nursing; and is assisted in self-care and group activities. In addition, a licensed nurse must be on duty at all times and should be able “to recognize significant changes in the condition of patients and to take necessary action.” That nurse is responsible for making daily rounds to all nursing units. In addition, any nurse who questions the care that is being provided to a patient must report the issue to the supervisor.

Hospital Staff Uncover Serious Concerns After Nursing Home Resident Transported for Fever

Police in Memphis, Tennessee are investigating an incident of alleged elder abuse after a man was found in a dire state after being brought to the hospital for a fever. The police report states that the nursing home resident was brought to the hospital after he ran a high fever. However, at the hospital, staff and a social worker said they found five open wounds on his body, a bruise on a stomach, and severely dry skin that was “flaking off his body.” They also found maggots inside wounds where his left foot and right leg had been amputated. According to the hospital nurses, the staples were never removed from his right leg amputation, and the bandages had not been removed. He was also allegedly found in feces.

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When someone is seeking admission into a Maryland nursing home, they will almost certainly be presented with a pre-admission contract. This contract goes over the rights and responsibilities of both the nursing home as well as the soon-to-be resident. In most nursing home pre-admission contracts, there is also an arbitration clause agreeing to forego the court system in lieu of arbitration in the event of a disagreement or lawsuit.

Signing a ContractArbitration clauses are generally enforced if they are entered into by the proper parties and are found to be within the constraints of the law. For example, some arbitration clauses have been invalidated because they are “buried” in the fine print of a lengthy contract with nothing indicating the significance of the rights the reader is giving up by signing the document.

Like all contracts, arbitration agreements must be validly entered into in order to be binding. This means that if a resident is found to have been incompetent, or is determined to have been forced to sign an agreement, the contract will not be enforced. A recent news article discusses a Kentucky case in which the court invalidated a nursing home arbitration contract because it was signed by the resident’s sister without the proper power of attorney.

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In most cases alleging Maryland nursing home abuse or neglect, if successful, the plaintiff will receive compensation for the injuries sustained by their loved one. This normally includes the costs of medical expenses, and it may also include an amount for the emotional pain and suffering their loved one endured as a result of the abuse or neglect. In some rare cases, punitive damages may also be appropriate.

CourtroomMost of the various types of damages available to a plaintiff in a Maryland personal injury case are focused on the plaintiff. However, the focus of punitive damages is on the especially egregious behavior of the defendant. Indeed, the purpose of punitive damages is to deter the very kind of behavior the defendant exhibited that led to the case being filed.

Punitive damages in Maryland are rare and require a showing of actual malice. This means that a plaintiff must show that the defendant possessed some kind of ill-will or spite. Thus, punitive damages are usually only appropriate when the defendant is found to have engaged in intentional wrongdoing, rather than merely negligent conduct. A recent case is an example of a situation in which punitive damages were found to be appropriate by a court.

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When a Maryland nursing home neglect lawsuit is filed, the case will proceed through several stages before it is ready to be heard. One of the most important pre-trial stages is the discovery stage, at which the parties request and exchange relevant information about the case.

ContractThe discovery stage presents an important opportunity for a plaintiff to develop their case, since this is often when the plaintiff receives information to which they may not otherwise have access. In most cases, a plaintiff will request any and all evidence that they believe is in the defendant’s control that will be potentially helpful to their case. Similarly, a plaintiff can request any evidence that may be harmful to their case so that they can be properly prepared to handle this evidence when it is presented.

In some cases, defendants may attempt to limit a plaintiff’s access to discoverable material by claiming that the evidence is covered under some privilege. In such situations, the parties will litigate pre-trial discovery motions in front of the court, which will have the ultimate decision regarding which evidence must be exchanged. A recent case involving wrongful death claims against a nursing home illustrates how a defendant nursing home may cite a privilege in an attempt to prevent a plaintiff’s access to certain evidence.

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When a Maryland nursing home accepts a resident into its care, the nursing home takes on a responsibility to provide a certain level of care for the resident. In most cases, this duty requires that nursing home staff provide the resident with any care, including medical care, needed by the resident. However, in certain situations, a nursing home’s duty expands, depending on the circumstances.

CaretakerA good example of when a nursing home’s duty can expand is detailed in a recent article discussing a tragic situation in which eight nursing home residents died in the wake of Hurricane Irma, due to a power failure in a nursing home. According to the recent report, despite ample notice of the storm’s severity and the potential for upcoming disaster, the nursing home did not secure any back-up power source.

Thus, when the nursing home lost power a day into the storm, residents were left without the electricity necessary to power medical devices as well as the home’s air conditioning system. By some accounts, temperatures reached up to 106 degrees. Several residents were able to be moved to a hospital that was across the street that had secured back-up generators in anticipation of power loss. However, eight residents died as a result of the power outage in the nursing home.

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