The Iowa Supreme Court has held that the state owed no legal duty to a nursing home resident who was allegedly sexually assaulted by a convicted sex offender who had been transferred to the nursing home after leaving the state’s civil commitment unit for sex offenders.

Mercedes Gottschalk was a resident of the Pomeroy Care Center, a nursing home.  She was allegedly sexually assaulted by a violent sexual predator who was transferred from a state sex offender unit to this nursing home after receiving an Alzheimer’s disease diagnosis.

Gottschalk, and then later her estate, sued the nursing home alleging that it was reckless and negligent in the way the nursing facility cared for her. Pomeroy Care Center filed a cross-claim against the State of Iowa seeking relief. The state moved successfully for summary judgment.  An intermediate appellate court affirmed that decision.

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Cecil Gary, a 60-year-old resident of the McCracken Nursing and Rehabilitation Center, had a history of stroke and was also an amputee.  Although he had limitations in caring for himself, he was aware of his surroundings and generally enjoyed his life.

As a resident of this nursing home, he experienced eight different episodes of dehydration and later developed nausea and severe pain. In this particular incident, the nursing home staff left him in bed, in distress, for about 27 hours before calling paramedics to transfer him to a local hospital. When he was transferred, he was diagnosed as being severely dehydrated and in hypovolemic shock and acute kidney failure.

At the hospital, he received 27 liters of fluid before sending him back to the nursing home. Once he was back at McCracken Nursing and Rehabilitation, he fell, breaking his hip in three places. Gary was not a candidate for hip surgery given his medical condition.

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A Kentucky appellate court has held that a nursing home arbitration agreement without specific language allowing an attorney-in-fact to waive a resident’s right to a jury trial was enforceable because of a recent U.S. Supreme Court decision.

In reversing the trial court’s denial of the defendant’s motion to compel arbitration, the appeals panel turned to the U.S. Supreme Court case of Kindred Nursing Centers v. Clark, 137 S.Ct. 1421 (2017). In the Kindred Nursing Centers case, the Supreme Court held that the Federal Arbitration Act preempts the state’s “clear statement rule,” which requires a power of attorney to contain an explicit authorization before an attorney-in-fact may waive a principal’s constitutional right to a jury trial. It was held that this case is substantively similar to the Kindred case.

In the underlying lawsuit, Jamie Free was admitted to Regis Woods Care and Rehabilitation Center, a long-term care facility. As she was being admitted, Jamie’s daughter, Reyetta Smith, signed an arbitration agreement in her individual and representative capacity. Smith later sued the facility and others claiming common law and statutory violations. The defendant moved to compel arbitration. The trial judge denied the motion on the basis that the power of attorney did not grant Smith express authority to sign the arbitration agreement on her mother’s behalf.

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On March 1, 2013, Ann Sanders entered into a residence agreement with the defendant, Victory Centre of Melrose Park, SLF Inc., a licensed supportive living facility. Pursuant to an addendum to the residence agreement, the parties agreed that all claims arising out of that agreement, including those of malpractice, could not be brought in a court of law but would be submitted to binding arbitration.

Later, Sanders, who had diabetes, suffered a diabetic shock and lapsed into a diabetic coma. She was then taken to Gottlieb Hospital in Melrose Park, Ill., where she died on May 21, 2013.

Exactly two years after her death, a lawsuit was filed against Victory Centre of Melrose Park, SLF Inc. alleging negligence and seeking damages in connection with her death. In the complaint, the plaintiff alleged that Sanders’s death was due to the negligence of the nursing home. The lawsuit sought compensation for wrongful death under that statute, the Rights of Married Persons Act (commonly known as the Family Expense Act) and the Survival Act.

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Livija Cruse, an 80-year-old woman who suffered from mild dementia, was admitted to Chicago’s GlenCrest Healthcare and Rehab Center after falling at her home. She was also immobile. Over an 8-week period, she developed a bed sore on her buttocks. Because of the bed sore, she underwent two debridements and nine months of at-home wound treatment care after her discharge from GlenCrest.

On behalf of Cruse, her attorney-in-fact sued the nursing home and the ownership entities claiming that these defendants chose not to prevent and treat the bed sore.  It was also maintained that the nursing home failed to keep her clean and dry, provide her with an appropriate mattress for her condition and place a cushion on her wheelchair. In addition, the lawsuit argued that the nursing home chose not to comply with a doctor’s order regarding her wheelchair.

The defendants countered these arguments that the facility had in fact provided the appropriate care. Before trial, the parties settled for $100,000.

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There has been a recent uptick in claims and lawsuits brought by nursing home and long-term residents, families and loved ones against nursing homes and their ownership for injuries to residents because of the way they are assisted or not assisted depending on a resident’s dietary needs.

For example, many residents on entry to a nursing home are carefully screened for falls, bed sores, medication and are otherwise admitted to a nursing home after a reasonably careful and prudent screening process.

However, in many cases, the issue of a resident’s disability may be relevant in how he or she is able to eat and digest food.

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The aftermath of Hurricane Irma was responsible for knocking out the air-conditioning at a Florida nursing home. As of Sept. 13, 2017, eight patients at that facility had died related to the heat and humidity when temperatures were extremely high. In fact, the state said four of the deceased nursing home residents had body temperatures between 107 degrees Fahrenheit and 109 degrees Fahrenheit.

The Florida Agency for Health Care Administration suspended the license of the rehabilitation center at Hollywood Hills, which was the nursing home residence for these nine individuals who have since died.

The nursing home official said they used coolers, fans, ice and other means to try to cool the patients, although these efforts were unsuccessful.

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Jovan Hinich was 28 years old and suffered from a neurological disorder that limited his mental capacity to that of a toddler. He lived at Next Step in Community Living facility, where his care plan required him to be supervised while eating and for his food to be cut into bite-sized pieces due to his tendency to eat quickly and swallow food without chewing it.

While he was traveling by van to his day program at the Milwaukee Center for Independence (MCFI), he was allowed to access his lunch, including a sandwich. After arriving at MCFI, Hinich collapsed from an obstructed airway. Part of the sandwich was later removed from his throat.

Hinich suffered cardiopulmonary arrest, which resulted in severe brain damage.  He now resides at a facility for those with brain injuries.

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A Louisiana State Appellate Court has held that the automobile policy exclusion in a long-term care and general liability insurance policy applied to claims barred on behalf of a patient who fell from a van’s wheelchair lift.

In this case, Shirley Ann Marzell, who was a patient at the Charlyn Rehabilitation and Nursing Center, was placed in her wheelchair onto the lift platform of the facility’s van. When her assistant moved away from her, Marzell’s weight shifted and the wheelchair rolled off the platform. She struck her head on the pavement. Marzell and her two daughters filed suit against American Safety & Indemnity Co., the insurance company that insured Charlyn Enterprises, the owner of the rehab center.

The insurance company moved for summary judgment maintaining that the automobile exclusion in Charlyn’s insurance policy applied to this lawsuit.  That provision stated in part that the insurance policy did not apply to any claim arising out of the use of an automobile, including acts of loading or unloading. The trial judge granted the motion for summary judgment dismissing the case. An appeal was taken.

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The Arizona Supreme Court has reversed a summary judgment dismissing a nursing home abuse case.

Marika Delgado was the personal representative of the estate of her sister, Sandra Shaw. Delgado appealed the trial court’s entry of summary judgment in favor of the defendants who were collectively Manor Care of Tucson.  On appeal, Delgado argued that the court erred in finding that the actions that allegedly caused Shaw’s death were not related to her incapacity as required by Arizona law.

Because the Arizona Supreme Court could not say as a matter of law that the alleged negligence that was a cause of Shaw’s death was unrelated to her incapacity, the state Supreme Court reversed the judgment of the trial judge and sent the case back for further proceedings.

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