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When a nursing home employee’s negligent, reckless, or intentional actions result in the death of a resident, the family of the deceased resident may want to seek justice on behalf of their loved one. This is done through a Maryland wrongful death lawsuit.

Wrongful death lawsuits are similar to traditional negligence lawsuits, but require proof of one additional element: the relationship between the parties. In Maryland, only certain parties can bring a wrongful death case against a negligent or abusive nursing home employee. These are call “primary beneficiaries” and include the “wife, husband, parent, and child of the deceased person.”

However, sometimes there will be no primary beneficiary available to bring the lawsuit. In such cases, the law allows for a secondary beneficiary to proceed with the case. A secondary beneficiary is “any person related to the deceased person by blood or marriage who was substantially dependent upon the deceased.” Of course, this is more difficult to prove than a simple blood relation, because it requires establishing substantial dependence. In some states, if no primary beneficiary exists, then the case will be brought by the deceased’s estate.

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In a disturbing story out of Syracuse, New York, a certified nurse aide has been formally accused of sexually abusing a physically disabled resident in a Utica nursing home. According to a report by one local news source, the state Attorney General has filed a nine-count indictment against a man who formerly worked at Focus Rehabilitation and Nursing Center.

Evidently, the man was charged with the following counts for alleged forcible sexual assault that took place on May 21 of this year:

  • Three counts of sexual abuse in the first degree;
  • Three counts of willful violation of health laws; and
  • Three counts of endangering the welfare of a vulnerable elderly person in the second degree.

If the man is convicted at trial, he will face up to 21 years in prison.

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Earlier this month in Damariscotta, Maine, a fire in a nursing home resulted in 22 residents needing to be evacuated for their safety. According to a report by the Bangor Daily News, the fire was started by a small electrical fire that began in the attic space. Luckily, the fire was contained to a six-by-six-foot diameter.

Evidently, the fire was put out mostly with the use of a chemical compound used to help put out fires. In addition, one bucket of water was also used to help quash the flames. The nursing home’s sprinkler system was triggered and kept the fire under control until emergency crews arrived with more sophisticated equipment. Despite the relatively small size of the fire, an entire wing of the nursing home was evacuated. In total, 22 residents were forced to evacuate as a result of the fire.

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In the course of nursing home abuse and negligence cases, there are several procedural requirements that must be met in order to ensure that your case is in compliance with relevant state and federal laws. For example, in medical malpractice cases, the District of Columbia requires that you serve the defendant with notice of your intention 90 days prior to filing a claim. Failure to file this notice could result in your case being dismissed.

In a recent case case, Lewis v. Washington Hospital Center, DC: Court of Appeals 2013, the D.C. Court of Appeals discussed the proper standards of review and standard for allowing a case to move forward when the requirement that the defendant in a medical malpractice claim be given 90 days notice was not met. Although the facts in the case were not discussed, the plaintiff was attempting to sue a hospital on malpractice grounds, and apparently failed to serve adequate notice of her lawsuit to the hospital.

The hospital filed a motion arguing that the court should not allow for a waiver of the notice requirement, because in its opinion, a waiver is only proper when the lawsuit involves, “an otherwise unknown or unlicensed defendant, or a misnomer.” Since the plaintiff was not suing an unknown defendant, the hospital argued that the “interests of justice” waiver was not proper. Additionally, the hospital argued that a separate waiver for notice, when a showing of good faith has been made regarding attempts to give notice, was also unavailable, because that was not the case either. The hospital argued, therefore, that the case should be dismissed for failing to meet the standard.

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In a recent Hartford County, Maryland nursing home lawyer blog, our attorneys discussed the increase of fall-related injuries across the country, and the importance of developing fall prevention and awareness to protect residents and patients in nursing homes and hospitals.

In a related hospital fall lawsuit, a stroke victim, who was reportedly deemed high-risk for falling when admitted, fell from her bed, and suffered severe fall-related injuries including a broken nose, fractured teeth and black eyes. She reportedly died the following day.

According to the lawsuit, the 76-year old checked into the NCH Naples Hospital emergency room, where she had a stroke in March 2009. Bernadine Minarcin was reportedly found to be at high-risk for falling, so the nurses raised two bed rails and implemented a bed alarm.

Hours later, Minarcin was found on the floor, in a pool of blood—and no alarm had gone off. Minarcin’s husband claims that the nurses were negligent, and breached a standard of care, by failing to keep his wife, a stroke victim, safe in her bed. Minarcin claims that the nurses should have put up three bed rails, which is the required standard of care and would have kept his wife in her bed.

According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), 1 in 3 seniors over the age of 65 suffer from falls every year, many of which happen in hospitals and nursing homes—with falls being the leading cause of injury-related death in their age range.

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Nursing homes and hospitals are working together in Baltimore, Maryland to reduce the amount of bed sores, or decubitus ulcers, that develop when patients stay in one position too long—restricting blood flow, which can lead to skin breakdown.

According to a recent report in the Baltimore Sun, Maryland has a higher than the national average of bed sore incidents in nursing homes and hospitals. The National Pressure Ulcer Advisory Panel reported that in the second quarter of 2009, the national average of bed sores was 11 percent, with bed sores developing among 14 percent of residents staying in Maryland nursing homes.

The Agency for Healthcare Research and Quality reports that after a patient develops pressure sores, their stay in the hospital or nursing home, can double, even triple, with complications arising from bed sores such as osteomyelitis, or sepsis, which can also lead to wrongful death. The treatment of severe bed sores can reportedly cost as much as $55,000, and hospitals are often not reimbursed by insurers when a patient needs to stay longer as a result of a bed sore.

All stages of bed sores are preventable, as long as nursing home residents are provided with appropriate care, and nursing home staff is educated on bed sore prevention. In a statewide effort to reduce bedsores, the Maryland health care field is taking action, to prevent bedsores from developing, to prevent patient injury, and to reduce cost for the state.

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