Articles Posted in Wrongful Death in Nursing Homes

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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An Alabama nursing home is facing a wrongful death lawsuit following a fire drill gone tragically wrong.

While the circumstances surrounding the accident remain unclear, the victim in this case, a 93 year old woman, was confined to a wheelchair. During what seems to have been a routine fire drill, an employee of the nursing home rolled the woman outside, and apparently left her unattended, or otherwise unsecured. The woman’s wheelchair then rolled down the hill, and threw her into a ditch, the lawsuit claims.

The lawsuit, filed on behalf of the woman’s estate, alleges that the woman was found lying facedown in water, and was then taken to a hospital where she died three days later. The cause of death was aspiration pneumonia.

The lawsuit claims that the nursing home employees acted negligently in placing the woman in a hazardous area and failing to protect her from harm. It seeks an unspecified amount in damages.

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A former nursing home resident’s estate has filed suit against the facility the man was living in when he died, accusing the facility of negligence which caused the man to suffer several falls while in its care, which ultimately led to his death.

The suit was filed on behalf of the estate of a former resident who died in September of last year at an Edwardsville, Illinois care facility. The suit alleges that the man was a resident in the facility from July 7, 2012 until the time of his death, which was the result of a subdural hematoma.

The suit specifically alleges that, “The cause of death was a subdural hematoma; said medical condition was a direct result of multiple falls by the decedent, at the Eden Village facility.” According to the complaint, the man suffered falls on at least four separate occasions from the end of July through August. In addition to the falls leading to his death, the estate alleges that the falls caused the plaintiff extensive pain and suffering, and were the ultimate cause of his death.

As a resident, the man required daily living assistance and rehabilitation. Subject to these requirements, the suit claims that the facility failed to care the decedent in a way which encouraged the maintenance and of his quality of life and dignity.
In addition to the wrongful death claims, the suit also alleges various other claims based on negligence. The estate is seeking at least $50,000 in damages for two of its claims.

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The family of an Indiana woman, who is believed to have died due to the injuries she suffered as a result of an altercation related to her Alzheimer’s and dementia, has filed a wrongful death lawsuit against the nursing home where she was living when she died. The suit accuses the nursing home of being negligent, and thus at least partly responsible for the woman’s death.

According to the local coroner’s office, the woman’s cause of death was a failure to thrive due to subdural and subarachnoid hematomas, which were the result of blunt force trauma that she suffered after a fall during an altercation with another resident.

The report from the Department of Health and Human Services Centers for Medicare & Medicaid, which was linked to in the story written by a local newspaper, concluded that among other things:

“Based on observation, interviews and record review, the facility failed to provide supervision to prevent falls and prevent a resident altercation which resulted in a fall, injury, hospitalization and death.” (page 8/28)

From the report, it also appears that this was not the woman’s first altercation.

The woman was a resident of the Alzheimer’s unit in the nursing facility, and she additionally suffered from dementia. The woman’s relatives claim that their motivation for filing suit was at least partly attributable to feeling as though the nursing care facility expressed no remorse or compassion following the incident.

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A woman’s estate filed suit against the nursing home where she lived until the end of her life, alleging that a medication error by nursing home staff caused severe health complications leading up to her death. A jury found the nursing home liable in Freudeman v. Landing of Canton and awarded compensatory and punitive damages. The defendant filed a motion for judgment as a matter of law on multiple issues, including whether the court properly instructed the jury about the doctrine of res ipsa loquitur and whether the plaintiff had made an adequate case for punitive damages. The court ruled in the plaintiff’s favor on the motion.

Dorothy Freudeman lived at the Landing of Canton, an elder residential facility in Ohio. In addition to her residency contract, she signed a separate contract for the administration of prescribed medications by the nursing home staff. According to the plaintiff’s complaint, Dorothy Freudeman received an incorrect medication from a staff member that resulted in dangerously low blood-sugar levels. This had a severely adverse impact on her health, until she died fifteen months later.

The executor of Dorothy Freudeman’s estate, Dennis Freudeman, filed suit against the Landing in a Common Pleas Court in Ohio. The suit alleged that the nursing home, through its staff, was negligent in administering the wrong medication, and that this was the proximate cause of the decedent’s injuries and a contributing factor in her death. The defendant removed the case to the U.S. District Court for the Northern District of Ohio. After a jury trial beginning in August 2011, the jury found for the plaintiff and awarded damages.

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A woman may replead her lawsuit against a Tennessee nursing home for the death of her mother as an ordinary negligence claim, according to a ruling from the Sixth Circuit Court of Appeals in Southwell v. Summit View of Farragut. She filed suit claiming medical malpractice and violations of the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA), and the defendant obtained a dismissal of both claims. The appellate court remanded the case to allow the plaintiff to plead ordinary negligence.

The plaintiff’s mother, Claudia Atkins, who had hearing and sight impairments, was receiving treatment at the University of Tennessee Medical Center for cancer and emphysema. She was transferred to Summit View of Farragut, a nursing home in Knoxville, on December 11, 2009. She died on October 6, 2010. The plaintiff sued Summit View on November 23, 2010 in state court, asserting causes of action for “negligence-medical malpractice” and wrongful death.

Summit View removed the case to federal court in December 2010 based on diversity jurisdiction, as the plaintiff was a Florida resident, and her mother remained a legal Florida resident despite her stay in a Tennessee nursing home. The defendant then filed a motion to dismiss under Rule 12(b)(6) of the Federal Rules of Civil Procedure. The district court granted the motion, and the plaintiff appealed to the Sixth Circuit.

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A nurse in Durham, North Carolina pleaded guilty to charges of involuntary manslaughter and patient abuse when a nursing home resident under her care died. Prosecutors accused her of drugging patients under her care in order to “keep them quiet.”

Angela Almore worked as a nurse at Britthaven of Chapel Hill, a nursing home located in Chapel Hill, North Carolina. She was reportedly working the 3 p.m. to 11 p.m. shift in the home’s Alzheimer’s unit on February 13, 2010. Seven residents were taken to a nearby hospital in the early morning of February 14 for respiratory issues. All seven of them tested positive for opiates, although it reportedly took doctors several hours to determine what was wrong with the patients. One of the residents, 84 year-old Rachel Holliday, died at the hospital. The cause of death was determined to be pneumonia due to morphine toxicity. The other six residents received treatment for various respiratory ailments and eventually returned to the nursing home.

Fourteen of the approximately twenty-five residents in the Alzheimer’s unit tested positive for morphine. Only one of the residents had a prescription for the powerful opiate. During the subsequent investigation of Holliday’s death and the positive toxicology tests, several employees stated that they had seen Almore giving an orange fluid to patients that did not look like the patients’ regular medication. According to the assistant district attorney who prosecuted the case, employees said that Almore told them she did not want to deal with patients during that shift, and that she had given them something to “relax.” Almore also allegedly stated that “she knocked all their asses out.” One employee who worked in the Alzheimer’s unit told the judge presiding over the case that none of the drugged patients ever caused trouble for the staff.

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A Colorado jury ruled for the family of a man who died due to complications from bedsores. The family of Henry Frazier sued the nursing home where the man lived, alleging that staff members’ neglect caused Frazier to develop the bed sores, and that the nursing home failed to notify the family of his condition. The jury awarded the family $3.2 million for Frazier’s wrongful death.

Frazier first entered Pioneer Healthcare Center in Rocky Ford, Colorado in May 2009. For a time, he reportedly worked as a janitor at the center, although he suffered from Parkinson’s Disease and had difficulties with mobility. His family, including his wife and adult children, visited him often, with his wife spending two to four hours a day with him. Despite this, the family was not made aware of the injury that would take Frazier’s life until it was too late.

The bedsores began to develop in September 2010, when he was no longer able to move about the facility. Frazier stopped eating or drinking. Confined to his bed, he became “unresponsive.” By early October, Frazier had reportedly developed severe bedsores on his buttocks and scrotum, according to a nurse’s aide who gave this information to Frazier’s son. The nurse’s aide said that he was concerned that he might lose his job for speaking out, but he was also afraid for Frazier’s life. The bedsores had become infected and gave off a foul odor.

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Suffering from dementia and confined to a wheelchair, 94 year-old Florida nursing home resident Elvira Nunziata needed near-constant supervision. Still, she managed to pass through a door that should have been locked, falling down a stairwell and sustaining fatal injuries in 2004. Her son, Richard Nunziata, knew someone at the nursing home had made a fatal mistake.

Nunziata filed suit against the nursing home for wrongful death, claiming that negligent supervision by staff led directly to his mother’s death. We reported last month in this Maryland Nursing Home Lawyer Blog that a jury awarded him $200 million in damages. There was one major problem with the verdict, however: no one showed up to defend the suit at trial. This case demonstrates how the law holding nursing homes liable for injuries has not caught up with the way nursing homes are owned and managed.

For-profit nursing homes, which have surged in the past decade or so according to the Tampa Bay Times, often split ownership of a nursing home among several different business entities. Each company would own different parts of the nursing home operation or handle responsibility, and liability, for different parts of the business. One company might own the building housing the nursing home, while another company owns the equipment and yet another handles payroll and personnel. If one part of a nursing home operation runs into legal trouble, a parent company can dissolve that business entity and create a new one. This process has little to no transparency. In this environment, it can be exceedingly difficult for someone seeking to make a claim for an injury to even identify which business is liable. It is even difficult for state and federal regulators to determine where to put liability for regulatory infractions.

In Nunziata’s case, Pinellas Park Care and Rehab Center, the home where his mother last lived, was owned by one company and operated by another. Trans Health Management, Inc., the home’s operator, reportedly had its corporate status revoked by the state of Florida by the time Nunziata sued in 2005. A forensic accountant testified at trial that Trans Health’s business was sold in 2006. Three separate companies each bought or “inherited” Trans Health’s operations, management contracts, and liabilities. The company that ended up with its liabilities, Fundamental Long Term Care Inc., also lost its corporate status and no longer exists. The accountant testified that most of these companies existed for the sole purpose of shuffling Trans Health’s assets and liabilities around. Nunziata’s best bet, for which there may be some precedent, is to go after the private equity companies that put all these businesses together in the first place.

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