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.
As 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.
Maryland rules of procedure require that once a judge orders a nursing home to pass certain evidence, the nursing home passes the requested evidence to the opposing party. A failure to comply with a discovery request can result in the court imposing sanctions against a party, including barring certain evidence or arguments. However, not all documents can be successfully requested; a party must show that the requested evidence is relevant or would likely lead to the discovery of relevant evidence. A recent case illustrates how a court may limit discovery to what it believes is relevant to the plaintiff’s case.
The Facts of the Case
The plaintiff in the case was the administrator of an estate belonging to a nursing home resident who passed away shortly after being discharged from the defendant nursing home. During pre-trial discovery, the estate requested all emails to and from the home’s administrator starting from six months prior to the resident’s admission to nine months after his discharge.
The nursing home objected to the request, claiming that it was too broad and that the emails from the time period when the resident was not living in the facility were irrelevant. The trial court overruled the defense objection and compelled disclosure. The nursing home appealed.
On appeal, the court reversed the lower court’s decision, stating that many of the specific requests of the plaintiff did not need to be honored. The court agreed with the nursing home that some of the requested evidence was not relevant, and the lower court’s blanket approval of all requests failed to account for what might be privileged material.
Do You Suspect Nursing Home Abuse or Neglect?
If you suspect that your loved one has been abused or neglected at a Maryland nursing home, you should immediately seek the counsel of a skilled personal injury law firm to discuss your options. The sooner you act, the better the chance of preserving certain evidence that may be crucial to your case. The skilled attorneys at the Maryland personal injury law firm of Lebowitz & Mzhen, LLC have extensive experience representing nursing home residents and their families in a wide range of nursing home abuse and neglect lawsuits. Call 410-654-3600 to schedule a free consultation to discuss your case with an attorney today.
More Blog Posts:
The Use of Hidden Cameras in Maryland Nursing Homes, Maryland Nursing Home Lawyer Blog, published May 12, 2017.
Appellate Court Upholds Nursing Home Arbitration Clause Despite Flaws in the Contractual Language, Maryland Nursing Home Lawyer Blog, published June 7, 2017.