Placing a loved one in the care of a Maryland nursing home is never an easy choice. While nursing homes are not known for providing residents with a stellar level of care, in some cases they are necessary when families are unable to care for their loved ones on their own.

Arbitration ContractUnfortunately, the instances of Maryland nursing home abuse and neglect have recently been on the rise over the past several years. While the law allows for families of abused or neglected nursing home residents to seek compensation for their loved one’s injuries in some cases, the ability of family members to pursue these cases may be limited if the current administration reverses a rule implemented last year.

Arbitration Clauses and Nursing Home Litigation

Before a resident is admitted into a nursing home, a family member must sign a pre-admission form. Hidden among other clauses in these forms is often an arbitration clause, which prevents the family of the resident from filing any case against the nursing home in a court of law. Instead, the clause requires the family to pursue any claim through binding arbitration.

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Maryland nursing home abuse and neglect have been serious issues confronting families and residents for decades. However, with the increasing popularity of social media outlets over the past decades, incidents of nursing home abuse seem to have skyrocketed. Not only has the number of claims increased, but also they have become more and more disturbing.

SelfieA recent trend in nursing homes across the country is the posting of nude, partially nude, or otherwise humiliating photographs of nursing home residents by those who are supposed to be caring for them. Nursing home employees may be motivated by frustration or a twisted idea of humor, but those who engage in this type of abuse are violating the duty of care they owe to the resident, and they are also likely violating criminal laws.

When this type of abuse occurs, it is important for family members to act quikcly. Social media posts can often be removed, leaving little or no evidence of abuse. An experienced nursing home abuse attorney can assist the family members of an abused or neglected nursing home resident in holding the responsible parties accountable through a Maryland nursing home abuse lawsuit. In many cases, the nursing home facility itself will be liable for the conduct of its employees.

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Many families do not have the ability to care for elderly family members, which means that they are forced to leave them to the care of a nursing home. However, ensuring that loved ones are well treated can be a difficult task. Unfortunately, some residents suffer abuse and neglect in nursing homes, including substandard care, starvation, and sexual abuse. In addition, advocates generally believe Maryland nursing home abuse and neglect is underreported because many residents are unable to voice their concerns due to their age or developmental impairments.

Wheelchair BoundNursing Homes’ Duty to Protect Residents from Abuse

A nursing home may be liable for acts or omissions that result in injuries to residents if the nursing home failed to exercise reasonable care to protect residents. All long-term care facility residents have a right to live in a safe environment, free from mistreatment. Abuse can take different forms, from physical abuse to verbal and mental abuse. A nursing home facility is expected to have policies and procedures to prevent abuse and neglect by prohibiting abusive practices as well as investigating and reporting allegations of abuse and neglect.

90-Year-Old Resident Claims Staff Member Beat Her After Wetting Bed

According to one news source, a woman was recently accused of beating a 90-year-old nursing home resident. The woman accused was identified as a 44-year-old nursing assistant at a Texas nursing home. Based on the resident’s report, police allege that the staff member beat the resident for wetting the bed and wearing too many pull ups.

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One of the most significant hurdles Maryland nursing home abuse and neglect cases face early in the process is overcoming a defense motion for summary judgment. Summary judgment is a mechanism by which either party – although very often the defense in personal injury cases – asks the court to resolve the case because the other party cannot legally win the case based on the evidence presented.

StethoscopeA nursing home abuse or neglect plaintiff can overcome a defense motion for summary judgment by showing that there is some issue of material fact that should be resolved by a jury. However, if no issues of fact are present – and the only issues are legal in nature – the court will enter summary judgment in favor of the moving party. A recent case illustrates how one trial court applied the summary judgment standard incorrectly.

The Facts of the Case

The plaintiffs were the surviving family members of an elderly woman who died while in the care of the defendant nursing home. The resident was admitted to the nursing home in March 2012 after being discharged from the hospital. Upon admission, the resident suffered from severe pulmonary and kidney conditions. Initially, the resident showed signs of improvement; however, about two months after her admission, the resident’s health began to decline due to a septic infection. The resident died from complications relating to the infection a short time later.

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Often, nursing home residents are elderly and sick, which is why many families bring their family members to a nursing home in the first place. Thus, a family member’s death in a nursing home may not always be cause for alarm. However, the fact that a family member was sick or elderly before their death does not absolve the nursing home of all responsibility.

Hospital BedsThe purpose of a wrongful death claim is to compensate family members for the loss of their family member’s life due to the wrongful act of another person. Originally, under Maryland law, a person’s dependents were not entitled to bring a wrongful death claim. However, in 1852, Maryland enacted the Wrongful Death Act. In Maryland, a wrongful death claim can be made “against a person whose wrongful act causes the death of another.” Normally, the claim must be made within three years of the family member’s death.

Claim Against Nursing Home for Failure to Resuscitate

One family recently brought a lawsuit against a nursing home after a mother died in the nursing home’s care, according to one news source. The family alleges that the nursing home’s staff failed to attempt to revive their mother after she was found “lifeless.”

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Tens of thousands of cases are filed in Maryland courts each year. To help the court system handle the large number of cases, procedural rules have been implemented to streamline the process and to ensure that only diligent plaintiffs with legally sound cases are permitted to have their cases heard by a judge or jury.

HourglassOne of the major procedural rules that courts require plaintiffs to follow is that a case must be filed within a certain amount of time, as outlined in the jurisdiction’s statute of limitations. If a plaintiff fails to file a case before the applicable statute of limitations expires, the court will be left with little choice but to dismiss the case, leaving the plaintiff with no avenue of recovery.

Over the past decade, states have begun to enact stricter requirements for many personal injury cases, especially medical malpractice cases and nursing home abuse and neglect cases. Indeed, according to a recent news article, West Virginia lawmakers have recently drafted and passed a bill that makes filing lawsuits against nursing homes much more difficult. Under the new law, the state’s statute of limitations was reduced from two years to one year. In addition, cases against nursing home facilities can only be filed in the county in which the nursing home is physically located.

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Over the past several decades, the numbers of residents at nursing homes across the country have increased. Coinciding with this increase in population has been a frightening increase in the instances of nursing home abuse and neglect. Indeed, by some estimates, one in 10 nursing home residents will suffer some kind of abuse during their stay.

Crossed HandsMore recently, there has been a push for the placement of hidden cameras by advocates for the elderly as well as by the families of those who have been affected by nursing home abuse or neglect. Indeed, several states have encouraged residents to place hidden cameras in their rooms. That being said, other states have not yet ruled on whether hidden cameras are permissible, given the fact that the camera must be placed on nursing home property and may require the nursing home’s permission.

While documenting abuse or neglect cannot prevent it from occurring, it can certainly make holding the culpable parties responsible for their actions easier in both civil and criminal courts. According to a recent news report, hidden cameras in a New Jersey nursing home have resulted in charges being filed against at least one former nursing home employee for the abuse of a resident.

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Over the past few months, there have been a number of nursing home abuse and neglect cases involving nursing home employees or management attempting to cover up the allegations made against them. Unfortunately, in some cases, this has turned out to be a successful tactic to evade liability, albeit through illegal and immoral means.

Folders of PaperAs a general rule, parties must preserve all of the evidence, including physical documents, emails, and even text messages, that may be relevant to a case as soon as that party has notice that a case was filed. This is because the opposing party is entitled to review all of the relevant documents through the process of pre-trial discovery.

Pre-Trial Discovery in Nursing Home Cases

In nursing home abuse and neglect cases in particular, pre-trial discovery is an integral process for the plaintiff. This is because there is likely little way for the plaintiff to have any knowledge of what goes on inside the walls of the nursing home, especially when the plaintiff’s loved one suffers from dementia or some other illness that affects their memory or ability to communicate.

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Last month, an appellate court in Georgia issued a written opinion in a case brought against a hospital involving allegations that the hospital was negligent in allowing the plaintiff to develop a stage IV bed sore. Ultimately, however, the court rejected the plaintiff’s case because the required expert affidavit that was filed along with the case failed to comply with state-law requirements.

Hospital RoomThe Facts of the Case

The plaintiff was admitted to the defendant hospital while he was unconscious. While he was being treated by the hospital, he developed a stage IV pressure ulcer near the base of his back. The plaintiff filed a personal injury lawsuit against the hospital, claiming that the hospital staff was negligent in failing to assess and treat the pressure ulcer and to properly care for him while he was unconscious.

As is the case in Maryland, under Georgia state law, medical malpractice plaintiffs must submit an affidavit in support of their claim. Essentially, the affidavit must come from a medical profession in a relevant field, and it must “set forth specifically at least one negligent act or omission claimed to exist and the factual basis for each such claim.”

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Earlier this month, an appellate court in Florida issued an interesting opinion in a case involving allegations that a nursing home was negligent in the care of a resident. The case presented the court with the opportunity to discuss an arbitration clause contained in a contract that also contained a legally invalid clause regarding a related issue. Ultimately, the court concluded that the invalid clause could properly be severed from the rest of the contract. Thus, the arbitration agreement was found to be valid.

ContractThe Facts of the Case

The plaintiff was the loved one of a woman who was injured while in the care of the defendant nursing home. Prior to the resident’s admission, she signed a pre-admission contract containing a clause agreeing to submit any claims that arose between herself and the nursing home to binding arbitration. There was also a clause stating that each party would be responsible for their own attorney’s fees, regardless of the claim’s outcome. Finally, the contract contained a “severability” clause.

Notwithstanding the arbitration agreement, the plaintiff filed a personal injury lawsuit against the nursing home. In a pre-trial motion for summary judgment, the nursing home sought the dismissal of the case, based on the signed arbitration agreement. The court determined that the attorney’s fees provision violated public policy, rendering the contract (and the arbitration clause contained therein) invalid. The nursing home appealed.

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