Articles Posted in Wrongful Death in Nursing Homes

Nurses employed by private nursing homes often have very difficult jobs. Private nursing homes are for-profit businesses that are primarily motivated by the bottom line. This means that the lower that staffing costs are, the more money that nursing home management or investors can take home at the end of the day. This pressure can incentivize nursing home management to keep as few nurses on the clock as possible.

For a nurse who is just trying to do her job, fewer nurses on the floor means more work. Often, nurses will have to take on additional patients due to “staffing shortages.” Since nurses are human, the more stress placed upon them, the more likely that they are to make a mistake.

Of course, being busy and overstressed is not an excuse to make a mistake that can cost someone their life, but it does tend to explain why so many serious instances of neglect and serious medical errors occur in nursing home facilities across the country.

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Earlier this month, the Arkansas Supreme Court issued an opinion dismissing what may have been a meritorious wrongful death case based on the fact that the document giving the plaintiff power of attorney was not validly executed. In the case, Quarles v. Courtyard Gardens Health & Rehab, the lower court dismissed the plaintiff’s case based on two reasons, one of which was the fact that the power of attorney document was notarized after the decedent had signed it, rather than simultaneously, as the law requires.

The Facts of the Case

Bernie Jean Quarles, the decedent, spent 11 months at the defendant nursing home before she was moved to another facility. In June 2010, Quarles allegedly executed a power of attorney document in favor of her son, the plaintiff. A short time later, while his mother was still alive, the plaintiff filed a lawsuit against the defendant nursing home on behalf of his mother, whom he claimed was “incapacitated.” The lawsuit alleged that the nursing home’s negligence resulted in the woman’s deteriorating health.

When the man’s mother died a few months later, he sought to substitute himself as the primary plaintiff. The parties were ordered to engage in arbitration to see if they could reach a mutually acceptable result. As a part of the mediation, the parties exchanged discovery. However, before arbitration began, the defendants asked the court to dismiss the case based on the fact that the power of attorney was never validly executed.

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While nursing homes are supposed to be a safe place for our loved ones, sometimes that is not the case. Two of the most serious problems almost all nursing homes face are understaffing and inexperienced nurses. These problems can result in serious symptoms seen in the home’s day-to-day management. For example, overworked and inexperienced employees often feel as though they never get a break, and they may become frustrated with not just the home’s management but also their patients.

This frustration is dangerous. Most nursing home residents are placed in homes because they cannot care for themselves and require that others help them with their day-to-day tasks, such as bathing, using the bathroom, personal grooming, taking medication, and visiting the doctor. When a nurse or other nursing home employee is too frustrated to deal with an employee, they may neglect the needs of that individual. In a vulnerable population like the elderly, this can result in serious or fatal consequences.

Maryland law allows for the families of nursing home abuse and nursing home negligence victims to file a civil lawsuit against the home as well as the offending employees. Of course, in order to bring such a lawsuit, a plaintiff will need to establish that they are related to the resident. They must also prove that the nursing home’s negligence or intentional misconduct resulted in the injuries sustained by their loved one. If they are successful, the family member may be entitled to monetary compensation for the suffering their loved one was forced to endure.

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Earlier this month, a Kentucky judge ordered a nursing home to pay the estate of one of the home’s prior residents $18 million after it was determined that the home was responsible for the wrongful death of the resident. According to one local news report, the woman spent the five years prior to her death in the nursing facility, but towards the end of her life she suffered greatly due to a lack of care.

Evidently, the deceased resident was allegedly forced to remain in soiled briefs for extended periods of time before a nursing home employee attended to her needs and changed her. The plaintiffs in the lawsuit claim that there was evidence this was the policy of the nursing facility in order to save on the costs of the one-time-use briefs.

It is also alleged that the woman developed severe bed sores, resulting in her nerve endings becoming exposed. Ultimately, she did develop a number of serious infections, including E. coli. She also had developed severe skin rashes and lost the use of her arms and legs while in the facility.

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Earlier this year in a Maryland nursing home, the family of an 85-year-old woman who died in an nursing home filed suit against the facility that was supposed to be caring for their loved one. According to one local news report, the family claims that their loved one died without any staff member at her side, despite hours of complaints of pain and requests for help from family members.

Evidently, the family of the woman was at the nursing home just 30 hours before her death, and they recorded their loved one in agony, moaning and crying for help. Allegedly, despite the woman’s efforts, as well as those of her family members, no nursing home staff member came to attend to or to assist the woman. Eventually, her family left her side, and 30 hours later she died.

The woman’s family filed a case against the nursing home, alleging that the home’s negligence was the cause of the woman’s early death. The woman’s daughter-in-law told reporters that she was pleading with the nursing staff, “Why can’t you help her? Why you gotta get somebody? Why can’t you just help her?”

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Earlier this month in West Virginia, a woman sued a local nursing home, claiming that the home was responsible for the death of her loved one. Specifically, she claimed that the nursing home was negligent for intentionally understaffing the home, increasing the danger of a serious incident occurring.

According to one local news report, the deceased became a resident of the nursing home in April of this year. During her short stay at the nursing home, she suffered from falls, pressure sores, pneumonia, weight loss, and a urinary tract infection before she passed away on September 17.

The plaintiff in the lawsuit claims that the defendant nursing home was aware of budgetary constraints that had resulted in short staffing. These staffing problems had led to deficits in patient care. However, when the nursing home explained its services to the plaintiff prior to her deciding to place her loved one there, it presented itself as a dedicated and capable facility.

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A few years back, in 2010, a 94-year-old woman died while a patient in a San Diego nursing home after she was run over by a large food cart. According to a report by one local news source, the woman’s family recently reached a settlement agreement with the defendant nursing home.

Evidently, the nursing home uses large carts to transport the residents’ meals and other equipment. These carts are over six feet tall and about 2-3 feet wide. The carts do not have slats or any way for people pushing the cart to see through or around the cart as they are moving it. Therefore, it is nursing-home policy that any time a cart is moved, two employees should be assigned to the cart.

However, when the 94-year-old woman was struck by the cart, it was only being pushed by one person. In fact, it seems as though the facility rarely, if ever, used two employees to control the cart.

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Recently, a Massachusetts jury delivered one of the largest verdicts in state history to a family who lost their loved one after a nursing home failed to provide adequate care for her during her final years. According to a report by the Boston Globe, the nursing home, which is located in Danvers, provided grossly negligent care resulting in the woman’s death.

Evidently, the woman was taken to the hospital when she fell out of her wheelchair. Upon being examined by ER doctors, the woman was found to have an open pressure sore on her back, acute appendicitis, a severe urinary tract infection that had invaded her blood stream, kidney failure, uncontrolled diabetes, and severe dehydration.

Doctors did their best to treat the woman. However, she died one month after she was admitted to the hospital. The family of the woman brought suit, claiming that the home’s gross negligence in failing to properly care for their relative caused her death. The woman’s family recounts times that they expressed their concern over their loved one’s health but were told by nursing home employees that nothing was wrong.

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Across the country, nursing home medication errors are causing health problems among nursing home populations. According to a report by a local NBC affiliate out of Chicago, a recent inspection by state health inspectors discovered 384 nursing home medication errors since 2011. Two of these medication errors resulted in death and one required an otherwise unnecessary amputation.

One Person’s Story of Medication Error

The article details the story of a woman who moved her brother to a nursing home after he suffered a stroke and a heart attack and was unable to care for himself. While he was in the care of the nursing home, he developed gastrointestinal cancer. When he first began his course of treatment, he was reacting well to the medication and his condition was stabilizing.

Months later, her brother’s condition began to worsen. Later, the family discovered that the nursing home had not given him his required medication for over a year. By the time the error was caught, the cancer had spread throughout his body and was untreatable. He passed away shortly thereafter.

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A jury recently awarded a Florida man more than $1.1 billion in damages for the alleged negligence his mother had experienced in a local nursing home.

The lawsuit claimed that the man’s 69 year old mother was a resident at the Auburndale Oaks Healthcare Center nursing home from 2004 until her death in 2007, and that during this time, she fell some 17 times due to improper supervision.One of the plaintiff’s attorneys in the case told a news agency that the case was about “corporate fraud, corporate greed.” Plaintiffs argued that the corporate defendant took over a nursing home and deliberately short staffed it, failed to fund it adequately, and as a result the home’s residents suffered.

It took the jury just a little over one hour to decide that the man was entitled to $110 million in compensatory damages, and $1 billion in punitive damages. A default judgment was entered against the defendants in 2011; thus the jurors sole responsibility was to determine damages. The judge in the case has rejected requests from the defendants to set aside the default judgments.

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