Nursing home residents in Maryland and across the country can be at great risk when left unattended, particularly if they have diminished mental capacity. In a recent case before a federal appeals court, a patient who had Alzheimer’s disease allegedly wandered from her room while unattended and died after she drank detergent she found in a kitchen cabinet.
The patient’s estate filed a wrongful death lawsuit against the nursing home, claiming the nursing home understaffed the home and failed to sufficiently secure the kitchen cabinet. The case went to trial and a jury found that the nursing home was liable for the patient’s death, awarding the patient’s estate $5.08 million. The nursing home agreed not to appeal but settled with the patient’s estate for $3.65 million, and the court set aside the judgment.
The nursing home later sued a contractor for contractual indemnification and breach of contract. The contractor provided kitchen and dining services at the nursing home, and the home alleged the contractor was liable for the patient’s death. The contractor claimed that the claims were barred by issue preclusion because the jury had already decided the nursing home was negligent.
Issue preclusion means that if there was a previous case between the same parties (or a party in privity), and the court made a finding on an issue essential to the judgment, that issue cannot be relitigated in a future lawsuit. Under Maryland law, issue preclusion applies if the following is true: 1.) the issue in the past adjudication is identical to the present issue; 2.) there was a final judgment on the merits of the case; 3.) the party being precluded from raising the issue was a party or in privity to the prior adjudication; and 4.) the party was given a fair opportunity to be heard on the issue.
The Court’s Decision
The court dismissed the indemnification claim against the contractor. The court explained that the nursing home could not sue the contractor for indemnification, because doing so would require the nursing home to prove that the patient’s death was the result of the contractor’s negligence rather than the nursing home’s. In this case, the nursing home defended itself in the case and the jury found the nursing home was responsible. The jury already decided that the patient’s death was the result of the nursing home’s negligence, and waived its right to appeal, and thus, that issue had already been decided by a court. The court dismissed the claim against the contractor for indemnification but found the nursing home could continue with its breach of contract claim against the contractor.
Contact a Maryland Nursing Home Attorney
Nursing home residents have a right to live in a safe environment. If you believe a nursing home may be at fault for your loved one’s injuries, get in touch with a Maryland nursing home attorney. The nursing home attorneys at Lebowitz & Mzhen, LLC represent nursing home residents and their families in Maryland and Washington, D.C. Our attorneys have decades of experience representing victims in the Maryland, Virginia, and Washington, D.C. region. Call Lebowitz & Mzhen at 1-800-654-1949 or fill out our online form to schedule a free consultation.
More Blog Posts:
According to New Study Inadequate Staffing Levels Plague Nursing Homes in Maryland and Nationwide, Maryland Nursing Home Lawyer Blog, published September 28, 2018.
Medical Malpractice Claims in Maryland Nursing Homes, Maryland Nursing Home Lawyer Blog, published October 5, 2018.