Maryland Federal District Court Allows Claim for False Imprisonment to Proceed Against Nursing Home and Hospital

A federal judge in the District of Maryland allowed one claim in a pro se lawsuit lawsuit against a hospital and a nursing home to proceed past summary judgment. The court in Estate of Bernice L. Jones v. NMS Health Care of Hyattsville, et al granted the defendants’ motion for summary judgment as to four of the plaintiff’s claims, but allowed the cause of action for false imprisonment to proceed.

According to the court’s opinion, Bernice Jones appointed her friend, David King, as her medical surrogate in the early 2000’s. They both lived in New York City at the time. Jones moved to Washington DC to live with her cousin in 2007, but kept in close contact with King and other New York friends. King continued to handle Jones’ financial affairs in New York.

Jones fell seriously ill in May 2008. She went to NMS’s St. Thomas More Nursing and Rehabilitation Center, located in Hyattsville, for short-term rehabilitation. Jones maintained daily contact with King and other friends and family. St. Thomas More reportedly began to arrange for Jones’ discharge in June 2008, but subsequent events remain disputed.

King alleges that Jones called him on June 4, 2008, while a St. Thomas More employee was present with her, asking about her bank account balance. King refused to provide any information until he could speak to Jones privately. The employee allegedly then took Jones to her bank in a wheelchair and requested a check from Jones’ account made out to St. Thomas More, which the bank refused to do. NMS stated that the employee was simply trying to help Jones arrange payment of her bill, that Jones requested to go to the bank, and that King refused to cooperate.

St. Thomas More allegedly transferred Jones to Barbie’s Assisted Living in Glenn Dale, Maryland on June 11. The discharge sheet does not include Jones’ signature. Neither King nor any of Jones’ other friends and family knew where she was for almost two months. No one at St. Thomas More would provide King with any information. A friend discovered Jones’ whereabouts from the state health department in early August. When King visited Jones at Barbie’s Assisted Living on August 6, Jones was reportedly disoriented and did not know how she had gotten there. Jones remained at this facility until she went into a coma in December 2008. She died at a Washington hospital in January 2009.

King sued NMS and Barbie’s Assisted Living on behalf of Jones’ estate, asserting five causes of action. In considering the defendants’ motion for summary judgment, the court found that a genuine issue of material fact existed as to the fifth cause of action, false imprisonment. Such a claim requires proof of a restriction of liberty without consent or legal justification. The court noted the lack of a signature on Jones’ discharge papers from St. Thomas More, raising the question of whether the facility had obtained Jones’ voluntary consent to the discharge and transfer. It also noted that Maryland law requires a facility to provide notice to a guardian or representative when it intends to transfer a resident who has resided there for less than thirty days, which St. Thomas More might not have done.

At Lebowitz & Mzhen, we help people in Maryland obtain compensation for injuries caused by nursing home abuse or neglect. To schedule a free and confidential consultation, contact us today online or at (800) 654-1949.

More Blog Posts:

Nurse Convicted of Involuntary Manslaughter for Drugging Patient, Causing Patient’s Death, Maryland Nursing Home Lawyer Blog, June 7, 2012
Nursing Home Staffer Charged with Elder Abuse for Allegedly Stealing Medicine, Maryland Nursing Home Lawyer Blog, May 15, 2012
Owner of Nursing Home Charged with Neglect for Second Time in Eight Years, Maryland Nursing Home Lawyer Blog, April 20, 2012

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