The field of medicine is generally associated with healing – we go to our doctors when we don’t feel well and expect them to treat us. Yet a large part of medicine is also prevention. Women undergo yearly mammograms to try and catch breast cancer early on, while people with high blood pressure take medication to try and prevent heart attacks or strokes.
Doctors and nurses are responsible for identifying the risk of future medical problems and developing a treatment plan to avoid that risk. For example, some patients with decreased mobility and strength might be at risk for falling during a hospital admission or rehab stay. Therefore, nurses need to evaluate patients to determine whether or not their conditions puts them at an increased risk for falling. Once the degree of risk is determined, the medical staff can work together to create a prevention plan to insure the patient’s safety. It is when these risks are not properly evaluated and prevented that nursing malpractice and medical negligence can occur.
The Illinois wrongful death lawsuit of Sorce v. Shorehaven Health and Rehab. Ctr., 09 CV 3083 (Waukesha County), illustrates what can happen if there are not adequate fall prevention measures in place. The 76 year-old Sorce had been admitted to the Shorehaven Health and Rehabilitation Center as part of his recovery from brain surgery. During his admission, Sorce was using a walker to get around and was generally given assistance with getting up and around.
However, one day towards the end of his stay, Sorce was sitting in his recliner chair when he realized he needed to use the restroom. As was his practice, Sorce pressed his call button to request nursing assistance to the bathroom. However, as more time passed and his call continued to go unanswered, Sorce elected to try and reach his walker and the bathroom by himself. Sorce raised himself out of his recliner, took a few steps across the room, but then fell on the floor and hit his head.
As a result of the fall, Sorce sustained a brain bleed, for which he required yet another surgery. And while the brain surgery itself was successful, Sorce died just six months later due to complications he developed following that surgery, i.e., severe bed sores, pneumonia, and sepsis. His surviving wife filed an Illinois wrongful death lawsuit against the rehab center alleging that if not for the nursing malpractice, Sorce would not have fallen and would still be alive today.
The wrongful death complaint alleged that the rehab facility had failed to institute adequate fall prevention measures that would have avoided the accident. Specifically, Sorce’s estate contended that the rehab center should have placed an alarm on Sorce’s recliner because that was where he typically slept. An alarm would have warned the nursing staff of any attempts by Sorce to get out of his recliner.
However, this chair alarm would not have been necessary if someone from the nursing staff had simply responded to Sorce’s request for assistance. Patients are given call buttons so they can alert the nursing staff of their needs, with the assumption being that the staff will then respond to those needs as required. This was not done in Sorce’s case; instead, the nursing staff was negligent.
Likewise, the estate contended that another simple preventive measure would have been to place Sorce’s walker near his recliner. This would have made it easier for Sorce to access his walker by himself and eliminated the need for him to take any steps without it. Again, the estate contended that this relatively small modification in treatment could have prevented Sorce’s fall and subsequent death.
Since the wrongful death lawsuit settled for $850,000 prior to trial, the defense lawyers did not get to publicly respond to the estate’s allegations. However, typically in nursing home abuse lawsuits involving falls, the defendant providers make a claim that the fall was an accident, that they did everything in their power to prevent the fall, and that there was nothing more they could have done to avoid the fall.
For over 35 years, Kreisman Law Offices has been handling Illinois wrongful death lawsuits for areas in and around Chicago and Cook County, including Des Plaines, New Lenox, Chicago’s Roscoe Village, and Lake Forest.
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Punitive Damages By Surviving Family Members Denied Under the Illinois Nursing Home Care Act – Vincent v. Alden-Park Strathmoor, Inc.