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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Meadowbrook Manor Nursing Home invoked the Quality Assurance Act in a case i which Jannie Lindsey, as plenary guardian for 88-year-old Laura Lindsey, alleged that Lindsey was injured by a fall while she was a resident at Meadowbrook’s Naperville Nursing Home.

The Illinois Appellate Court was presented with a case of first impression under the Quality Assurance Act (Long-Term Care Peer Review and Quality Assessment and Assurance Protection Act; 745 ILCS 55/1 et seq.)

In this case, Meadowbrook Manor used a contempt sanction to question the validity of a discovery order that commanded it to handle (1) an internal report it prepared after Lindsey fell and (2) written statements from six witnesses.

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In this case, the Kentucky Supreme Court’s clear-statement rule was held to violate the Federal Arbitration Act by singling out arbitration agreements for disfavored treatment.

The Federal Arbitration Act (the Act) makes arbitration agreements “valid, irrevocable, and enforceable, save upon such grounds as exist at law or in equity for the revocation of any contract,” 9 U.S.C. ¶ 2, establishes an equal-treatment principle:  A court may invalidate an arbitration agreement based on “generally applicable contract defenses,” but not on legal rules that “apply only to arbitration or that derive their meaning from the fact that an agreement to arbitrate is at issue,” AT&T Mobility, LLC v. Concepcion, 563 U.S. 333, 339.

The Act thus preempts any state rule that discriminates on its face against arbitration or that covertly accomplishes the same objective by disfavoring contracts that have the defining features of arbitration agreements.

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In an Illinois Senate bill sponsored by Sen. Tom Cullerton, D-Villa Park, the law would create a “resident’s representative” for Illinois nursing home residents.  The law would amend the Nursing Home Care Act, changing Section 1-123 (210 ILCS 45/1).

This law — should it be enacted — would allow a nursing home resident to choose someone to support the resident in decision-making, access medical, social, or other personal information of the resident, manage financial matters or receive notifications.

The law would also include the following:  (1) an individual chosen by the resident to act on behalf of the resident in order to support the resident in decision-making; access medical, social or other personal information of the resident; manage financial matters; or receive notifications; (2) a person authorized by state or federal law, including, but not limited to, agents under power of attorney, representative payees, and other fiduciaries, to act on behalf of the resident in order to support the resident in decision-making; access medical, social, or other personal information of the resident; manage financial matters; or receive notifications.  (3) a legal representative, as used in Section 712 of the federal Older Americans Act (42 U.S.C. 3058g); or (4) the court-appointed guardian or conservator of a resident. Nothing in this definition is intended to expand the scope of authority of any resident’s representative beyond that authority specifically authorized by the resident, state or federal law, or a court of competent jurisdiction.

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The family of Lola Norton, deceased  brought a wrongful death action against a number of defendants who were affiliated with a nursing home in which Bernard Norton’s wife, Lola  died.

Bernard and family claimed that negligent treatment caused Lola’s death. The the nursing home defendants filed a motion to dismiss the complaint or, in the alternative, to stay the proceedings and compel arbitration of all claims in accordance with an agreement entered into by Lola at the time she was admitted to the nursing home.

The trial court granted the motion to stay and compel arbitration, and Bernard appealed, contending that, as a wrongful death beneficiary, he could not be bound to Lola’s arbitration agreement. The Court of Appeals reversed the trial court and found that Lola’s beneficiaries were not required to arbitrate their wrongful death claims against the nursing home defendants.

Arbitration clauses commanding arbitration in nursing home abuse and neglect cases have been the bane of many lawyers seeking to protect nursing home residents from abuse and injury. Under the Illinois Nursing Home Care Act, arbitration clauses were considered to undermine the purpose of the act by making it mandatory for residents and their families to abide by a confusing nursing home contract on admission to a nursing home.

The Illinois Nursing Home Care Act was intended to protect residents from exploitation by nursing homes and their parent corporations. It would seem to be against Illinois public policy for residents admitted to Illinois nursing homes to be compelled to sign a contract. In some cases, these contracts contained arbitration clauses that would essentially remove a common law lawsuit as an option should the resident be injured by neglect or abuse by a nursing home and its personnel.

The Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services (CMS) implemented a new rule that prohibited federal funds for nursing homes that enter into binding arbitration agreements with residents. However, in a U.S. District Court in the Northern District of Mississippi, an order was entered that found that the CMS did not have authority to enact the mandate without statutory authority.

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A federal jury in North Carolina entered its verdict in favor of the families of three nursing home residents who died at Blue Ridge Health Care Center.  The lawsuit filed for the wrongful deaths claimed these deaths were caused by the callous neglect of these and other nursing residents.

The jury awarded both compensatory and punitive damages in the case. The suit alleged that the nursing home’s medical staff chose not to properly monitor the patients, allowing them to remove their own breathing tubes without proper safeguards in place. The families alleged in these wrongful death lawsuits that the patients all required ventilator or tracheotomy tubes, which the residents were able to  remove on their own.  There was claimed to be little or no medical staff intervention to prevent residents from removing their ventilators or tracheotomy tubes.

The jury entered the verdict in favor of the families of the nursing residents — Baird, Jones and Kee — compensatory damages of $50,000, $300,000 and $300,000, respectively, and punitive damages to each family in the amount of about $1.5 million.

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Julio Reyes Concepcion, a 73-year-old nursing home resident of the Royal Suites Health Care & Rehabilitation facility, had a number of different medical and health problems after he suffered a stroke.  He required tube feeding at the nursing home. After a feeding, a nursing staff worker noted that he had vomited.  The nursing home staff did not notify his treating physician.  About five hours later, he was transferred to a hospital suffering from respiratory distress and aspiration pneumonia. Unfortunately, Reyes Concepcion died two days later.

His family sued the nursing home, claiming that its nursing staff negligently chose not to elevate his bed 45 degrees before or after the feeding and chose not to timely respond to signs of respiratory distress.

The jury in this case concluded that the nursing home had been negligent but determined there had been no pain and suffering. The jury’s verdict was for $250,000, which the trial judge later vacated for “excessiveness.”  The case is being retried on damages only.

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