Articles Posted in Inadequate staffing

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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Maria O’Brien was 84 years old and lived at Good Shepherd Health Center. Over a two-and-a-half-year period, she fell eight times at this nursing home facility.

On the day of her last fall, she was left unattended in front of her bathroom sink despite a care plan calling for constant supervision. She fell, suffering a fractured vertebra, which in turn led to immobility and pressure sores.

O’Brien died from dehydration about a year after the last fall. She was survived by her four adult children.

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Robert Lankford, 69, underwent abdominal surgery. He was admitted to Life Care Center Pensacola for his recovery period. One of the nursing facility’s nurses mistakenly removed Lankford’s skin staples, which led to a wound infection. Lankford required a second surgery to close the wound.  Afterward, he was returned to Life Care Center where he was subsequently diagnosed with having C. difficile infection. Lankford later died of unrelated causes.

The Lankford family and estate filed a lawsuit against the nursing home and a related corporate entity claiming liability for its nurse’s blatant mistake of removing the staples and for the nursing home’s choosing not to adequately have in place infection control resources. The Lankford family maintained that had the nursing home been equipped properly, the infection could have been controlled, saving Lankford’s life.

The jury’s verdict was $303,300. The attorney representing the Lankford family was Clay Mitchell.

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Ms. Doe, 78, suffered from blindness and mild dementia. Her nursing home care plan called for her to receive assistance from at least two people during any type of physical transfer. This would mean transfer from her bed or transfer from a chair or a transfer from her wheelchair. Nonetheless, only one nursing home aide assisted Ms. Doe when transferring her to the toilet. Under these circumstances, Ms. Doe fell and fractured her left tibia and fibula. She died six days later as a result of her injuries. Ms. Doe was survived by her two adult sons.

Ms. Doe’s family sued the nursing home claiming it chose not provide adequate transfer assistance, which led to her fall and unfortunate passing. The defendant nursing home argued that Ms. Doe’s death resulted from her underlying medical conditions, not from her fall. Before trial, the case was settled for $325,000 confidentially.

The attorney representing the Doe family was Brett R. Leitner.

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In a confidential settlement, a nursing home paid $475,000 to a seriously injured resident. The resident was listed and charted as being at a high risk for falling. However, several nursing assistants placed the resident at the edge of her bed and then left her alone.  This occurred while the resident was waiting for her dialysis appointment. The resident fell off the bed and hit her head on the floor.

The resident suffered a traumatic head injury and died one month after the date she suffered her head injuries. The resident was survived by her three adult children.

The lawsuit brought by the family of this resident alleged that the nursing home chose not to monitor the resident properly in order to prevent her fall. This case was settled as a confidential settlement.

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Sophia Alcon, 77, was admitted to Life Care Center of Pueblo, a skilled nursing facility. During the 7 months that she remained there, she suffered various injuries and illnesses, including urinary tract infections, bed sores, dehydration, malnutrition, pain, renal failure and aspiration pneumonia. She was brought to a nearby hospital where a staff medical provider noticed that her vagina was packed with dried feces. She died as a result of her medical conditions and is survived by her 10 adult children.

One of her sons, on her behalf and for the family, sued the nursing home and its corporate affiliates maintaining that they were responsible for her death. In the complaint it was alleged that the nursing home was negligent, was responsible for her wrongful death and was guilty of numerous consumer protection violations. Among other things, the Alcon family alleged that the defendants chose not to properly assess Sophia’s medical needs, formulate an appropriate care plan, provide adequate staffing and properly trained personnel at this skilled nursing facility.

The jury’s verdict of $5.56 million, included $5 million in punitive damages, which are designed to punish the defendants for the abusive treatment to Sophia Alcon.

According to recent reports by the National Center on Elder Abuse — Administration of Aging (Department of Health and Human Services), America’s expanding elderly population has led to an increase in elder abuse.

It is predicted that by 2050, people 65 and older will make up 20% of the total U.S. population. Today, the fastest growing segment of America’s population consists of those 85 years and older. In 2010, there were about 5.8 million people 85 or older. By the year 2050, it is projected that there will be 19 million people over 85.

“Elder abuse” is defined as intentional actions that cause harm or create a serious risk of harm (whether the harm is intended) to a vulnerable elder by a caregiver or other person who is in a trust relationship with the elder. Other abuse includes the failure of caregivers to provide the basic needs of an older adult or to protect the elder from harm from others.

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A Cook County jury signed a $150,600 jury verdict for injuries suffered by Ruth Ratowitz on Oct. 17, 2011. She was wheelchair-bound and was being transported by Rich Township to and from her healthcare appointment at Ingalls Memorial Hospital’s Professional Office Building in Harvey, Ill. She was 67 years old at the time. The transportation program was sponsored by the Rich Township Dial-A-Ride Program for Rich Township residents.

The township provided the transportation in a van specifically outfitted with a Q’Straint Restraint System for the purpose of keeping passengers secure in wheelchairs.

The plaintiff filed this lawsuit against the Rich Township and its driver, Horace Morgan, claiming that they chose not to properly secure her wheelchair in the van for the return trip and was speeding and making sharp turns during the transit causing her to fall from her wheelchair inside the van where she suffered a fractured tibia.

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Salvador Palmieri was 86 when he underwent heart surgery and then experienced complications, which necessitated prolonged hospitalization in his hospital bed. A week after surgery, a nurse noticed new bedsores on his buttocks.

The hospital’s wound care nurse recommended cleaning and dressing the wound. However, a few months later, while Palmieri was still hospitalized, he became septic.

Palmieri was transferred to another hospital where he was diagnosed as having Stage IV sacral pressure sore, sepsis and other sores on his extremities. In spite of the medical treatment given, Palmieri died of sepsis, respiratory and kidney failure. He was survived by his wife and two adult sons.

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The New York Times has reported that a California nursing home fined by the state for substandard nursing care and facing many lawsuits has gone to the bankruptcy court to try to extinguish the burden of these fines and coming judgments. The nursing home faced many lawsuits filed by families on behalf of patients.

The nursing home company, North American Healthcare, which owns and operates 30 nursing homes in California and other Western states, was criticized for taking the bankruptcy route to avoid paying out judgments and verdicts brought by injured or killed nursing home residents.

In 2014, another California nursing home chain filed for bankruptcy for the same reason. Also in Florida, a bankruptcy judge forced Medicaid officials to continue paying a nursing home that was protected under its Chapter 11 bankruptcy filing.

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