Articles Posted in Nursing Home Fall Cases

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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A state appellate court had held that a nursing home’s alleged failure to prevent a nursing home resident’s injuries by raising bedrails was a triable issue of fact. The case centered on whether this choice — made by the nursing home  — was a departure from the standard of care.

Rosalia Petralia, 88, suffered from dementia. She lived at the Glengariff Health Care Center. She was a fall risk and formal fall precautions were noted in her chart. She fell out of bed and suffered serious injuries.  Later, she  sued the nursing home, and her son was substituted as the plaintiff when his mother passed away.

The lawsuit maintained that Glengariff Health Care Center was negligent and also alleged medical malpractice for the nursing home’s choosing not to have Petralia’s bedrails raised before her fall. The nursing home moved for summary judgment. The trial court granted the motion, holding that the nursing home had shown it had not departed from the acceptable nursing and professional practice standard.

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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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Violet Moseson, a 97-year-old resident of an assisted living facility, was mandated to be checked on every morning. The facility was to perform safety checks each morning for this resident and others. At the time of this occurrence, the electronic system through which the facility was supposed to communicate with Moseson was not turned on in her apartment when she moved in.

A week later, Moseson fell in her apartment at night. It was alleged that she spent the next 2-3 days trying to get help. There was a trail of blood and excrement in her apartment when a family member found her lying on the floor. Because of the severity of the fall, Moseson suffered spinal fractures, contusions as well as progressive dementia. Moseson died several months later and is survived by her two adult sons.

The decedent’s estate and family brought a claim that was arbitrated against the assisted living facility. It was maintained that the facility chose not to check on Moseson every 24 hours and chose not to activate the call system in her apartment. The defendant facility disputed the length of time that Moseson had been left in the apartment after her fall and countered that she was at fault for failing to purchase an emergency pendant. Many elderly people wear a pendant around their necks for emergencies. The pendant has a call button that alerts a switch board that then contacts family members.

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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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Mary, 77, suffered from an end-stage renal disease and required a wheelchair due to left-sided weakness that resulted from a stroke. Mary lived at a nursing home facility, Beachwood Pointe Care Center, with her husband who also used a wheelchair.

When the nursing home’s staff chose not to bring Mary to the facility’s dining room, her husband threw a belt over his shoulder and “towed” Mary — in her wheelchair — to the eating area. As the couple rounded a corner, Mary’s wheelchair caught on a doorframe, which caused her to fall to the floor. Mary suffered a broken leg in the fall, but it went undiagnosed for two days until the nursing home’s staff at her dialysis center noticed the injury and sent her to the hospital.

After Mary returned to the nursing home, she developed multiple bed sores. This included two Stage IV sores on her buttocks, which became infected and led to sepsis from which she later died.

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Ms. Doe, 82, lived at an assisted living facility. While she was there she fell, suffering a neck fracture and a myocardial infarction. In other words, not only did she sustain a fractured neck but she had a heart attack as well. Ms. Doe died two hours later. She was survived by her four adult children.

The lawsuit that was filed against the assisted living facility by the family alleged that the owner and operator of the facility chose not to implement fall precautions and properly monitor Ms. Doe or transfer her to a skilled nursing facility in light of her condition. Ms. Doe had dementia and a history of previous falls.

The defendant assisted living facility operator maintained that Ms. Doe’s cardiac event, her heart attack, was unrelated to her fall. When admitting a new resident, nursing homes and assisted living facilities go through a checklist of fall protection issues. Fall prevention in nursing home and assisted living facilities is a major focus for quality improvement in patient safety. The best way to prevent falls is to complete a thorough fall risk assessment on the first day of admission at any nursing home or assisted living facility. Significantly, these fall protection plans must be implemented to reduce the number of falls or the risks of future falls. Despite the best efforts of assisted living facilities and nursing homes, the elderly or infirm are susceptible to falls, which cause serious injuries.

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Marjorie Stearns, 89, suffered from dementia. She lived full time in a nursing home. The nursing home records showed that Marjorie had fallen at the nursing home. The nursing home initiated safety measures to protect against any future falls.

This Illinois Appellate case analyzed the legal concept of duty. It described two types of duties: one being the ordinary duty that all persons owe each other to guard against reasonably probable and foreseeable injuries that may arise as a consequence of an act and the second being an affirmative duty to act that arises as a result of a special relationship between one party and another.

In this case, the issue of duty was critical in that it had to be determined whether the ambulance service that was transporting the resident back from her dialysis treatment to the nursing home when she suffered a head injury had a duty to protect her.

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It is not new that nursing home residents are too often at risk for abuse, neglect and injury in the more than 17,000 nursing home facilities operating in the United States. Too many times these facilities are understaffed or staffed with untrained or unskilled workers. All of this results in many reports of serious physical, verbal and even sexual abuse in Illinois nursing homes and in other states.

It has been more than a decade since there was a two-year investigative study completed that found more than 9,000 instances of abuse. The most common abuse problems are untreated bedsores followed by inadequate medical care, malnutrition, dehydration, falls, inadequate hygiene and cases of wandering residents.

The aging of adult Americans places even more stress on nursing home facilities and long-term care facilities in which the aging are most likely to be residing. The cost of maintaining a resident at a qualified nursing home is now out of reach for many families. Many times a family member or a loved one becomes unmanageable at home because of illness, injury, age, dementia or other onset of the conditions related to aging.

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