Expert witnesses can be extremely helpful in Maryland nursing home abuse cases. They can help explain to the judge or the jury the extent of the injuries, or how the incident occurred. Typically, expert witnesses are very helpful for plaintiffs and may help them win their cases against negligent nursing homes. However, there are some instances where expert testimony is required—not just helpful—and plaintiffs might even lose if they do not have it.
Recently, a state appellate court issued a decision discussing when expert witnesses are needed to prove a claim of negligence and when they are not. According to the court’s written opinion, the complaint was brought as a wrongful death suit against the nursing home, in part for negligent staffing. The victim, a 71-year-old resident in the home, had been living in the facility for eleven years. One night, a licensed practical nurse (LPN) entered his room during her night shift, saw vomit on the resident’s clothing, and noticed that his stomach was distended. Concerned, the LPN reported what she had seen to other staff members but took no further action. Importantly, there was no Registered Nurse (RN) on staff during the night shift. It wasn’t until around 12 hours later, the next morning, when an RN actually examined the resident and had him taken to the emergency room. The resident was treated in the emergency room and then the intensive care unit, but unfortunately died that night from bowel complications.
The resident’s family and estate brought a wrongful death suit against the nursing home, claiming that the facility was negligent by not staffing the night shift with someone who could have properly assessed the victim’s condition. According to the plaintiffs, had there been an RN or someone else on staff, they likely would have realized the severity of the resident’s condition and transferred him to the hospital earlier, which may have saved his life. The defendants attempted to dismiss the claim against them, arguing that the staffing decision required professional nursing judgment, making it professional negligence, rather than ordinary negligence. A key difference between the two is that professional negligence requires expert testimony, something the plaintiffs did not have.
However, the court ruled against the defendants and found the claim to be one of ordinary negligence. According to the court, there was no evidence that the determination to not staff an RN overnight was made by a medical professional or was a medical decision. In fact, there was evidence that the decision was related to business, because RNs cost more than LPNs. Thus, there was evidence to support the claim that the nursing home only employed RNs during the day to save money, even though residents could get sick at any time and that LPNs were not trained to assess the condition of residents with particular medical needs.
Have You Been The Victim of Nursing Home Abuse?
If you or a loved one have recently been injured while staying in a nursing home, you may have a negligence claim against the facility. Call Lebowitz & Mzhen, Personal Injury Lawyers, to talk with a dedicated and experienced Maryland nursing home abuse lawyer and discuss the potential for your claim. If successful, you could be entitled to significant monetary compensation. To learn more, call toll-free today at 800-654-1949.