Articles Posted in Assisted Living Facilities

The Supreme Court of Rhode Island has held that the release of a master or principal or employer from liability also releases a servant or employee from potential legal liability.

In this case, Michelle Hall sued Tavares Pediatric Center Inc., an assisted living facility, alleging liability for injuries her daughter suffered while being care for there. Before trial, the parties settled. The plaintiff signed a joint tortfeasor release that exempted Tavares agents and employees. The court then dismissed the case.

Later, Hall sued two nurses who provided care to her daughter at the same Tavares Pediatric Center. The nurses moved for summary judgment on the basis that under state law, they and Tavares were a single tortfeasor and, therefore, Tavares released the nurses. The trial court agreed and an appeal was taken.

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The Texas Supreme Court has held that a plaintiff satisfied the requirements of the state’s Medical Liability Act. The plaintiff offered multiple expert reports in a case alleging that an assisted living facility and other medical providers chose not to timely discover a resident’s missing dental bridge.

Betty Hathcock lived at Village of Lake Highlands, an assisted living facility. She reported the loss of her dental bridge to the facility’s staff members, who searched the facility but did not find it. It was later discovered the bridge was lodged in her trachea when an x-ray was done. She had developed respiratory symptoms that worsened over the course of an evening. Unfortunately, Hathcock died shortly after the discovery of the dental bridge.

Hathcock’s daughter sued the assisted living facility claiming failure to timely discover the missing bridge. To support the lawsuit, the Hathcock family filed four separate expert reports to satisfy the medical liability statute’s requirements, including one report discussing the medical cause of Hathcock’s death. The defendant moved to dismiss the case; the trial judge denied. The appellate court reversed the trial judge, and the case was taken up to the Texas Supreme Court for further consideration.

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Potential clients often report attacks on nursing home residents by roommates or other residents at Illinois nursing homes. Nursing homes typically are home to the elderly, the infirm, the mentally challenged and many who are suffering dementia or other lapses in mental capacity.

In many cases, resident-on-resident violence occurs in Illinois nursing homes on a regular basis.  All too often, nursing home residents suffer serious injuries. Nursing home residents are usually fragile physically and emotionally; thus, a fall, a shove, a strike or a blow to the body may cause serious injuries of all sorts that could lead to untimely deaths.

When a nursing home resident applies for residency, there is an assessment that takes place unique to the applying individual. When screening a prospective nursing home resident, the nursing home administrators examine medical reports, consult with treating physicians and interview family members as well as the prospective resident. This due diligence is a way of identifying potentially violent tendencies of a nursing home resident.

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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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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 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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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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