Articles Posted in Nursing Home Residents

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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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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The Illinois Department of Healthcare and Family Services has adopted an amendment to the Medical Assistance Programs reducing personal need allowances for residents of assisted living facilities. The amendment to 89 Ill. Adm. Code 120 (eff. Aug. 2, 2016), Section 120.61 is entitled “Long Term Care,” which has application to the residents of long term care facilities or state-certified, licensed or contracted residential programs.

A condition of residency at one of these long term facilities is that residents must pay all of their income to the facility unless there is an exception listed in the regulations. One of the allowed deductions is an individual’s personal needs allowance. This is a part of a resident’s income that is reserved solely for the resident to use in any way he or she wishes. The rest of the person’s income is applied to the costs for the resident’s care at the facility. The state or government will pay the rest of the full costs of the residency.

This amendment returns the allowance amount from $60 per month to $50 per month for residents of Community Integrated Living Arrangements and $30 per month for residents of Intermediate Care Facilities for Individuals with Developmental Disabilities. These changes reduce the allowances back to the 2014 level.

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Life Care Centers of America, which operates 200 locations and is based in Tennessee, will pay $143 million to settle a False Claims Act (FCA) litigation in which it was alleged that the corporation had billed Medicare for excess treatment. According to the report of the case, this was a record FCA settlement for the nursing home industry.

The consolidated cases arose because of two whistleblower cases as well as an unjust enrichment lawsuit brought by the Department of Justice (DOJ) against the owner of Life Care. The two former employees will share $29 million in the settlement payout.

This settlement was reported to be the largest in the Justice Department’s history involving a skilled nursing home chain. The size of the settlement was based on Life Care’s ability to pay this amount.  The government, which joined in the FCA cases in 2012, alleged excessive treatment of seniors in order to maximize Medicare reimbursements.

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According to a recent report in the New York Times, an agency within the federal Health and Human Services Department issued a rule that bars any nursing home that receives federal funding from requiring that its residents resolve disputes in arbitration as an alternative to a lawsuit in a court.

As in many situations, the admission contracts of nursing home residents encounter clauses within that contract that makes arbitration mandatory should disputes of any kind arise. That includes most often neglect and abuse matters.

The nursing home industry has long preferred arbitration instead of lawsuits that residents raise for neglect and abuse.  Arbitration is a benefit to the nursing home industry because the cost of litigating cases in arbitration is much less than might be in a state court. The arbitration clauses that are found in some nursing home admission contracts are designed to limit the amount of recovery for an injured or neglected resident.

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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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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.

Under a law enacted in Illinois in August 2015, the Authorized Electronic Monitoring in Long-Term Facilities Act became effective on Jan. 1, 2016. Under its provisions, residents and their roommates have the right to consent to having a video or audio recording devices installed in their rooms. The cost of the installation and the equipment must be paid by the resident or the resident’s family or loved ones. Some refer to the video installed in nursing homes as “granny cams.”

Illinois has become one of just a handful of states that allow the recording devices in nursing home residents’ rooms. The law is in response to growing numbers of cases of nursing home abuse that regularly takes place in these facilities at the expense of the most vulnerable of our citizens: the elderly, the ill and infirm.

The Illinois Department of Public Health will establish a fund of $50,000 that will be given each year to residents selected by a lottery to purchase and install monitoring devices in nursing homes. It will be a criminal offense to tamper, obstruct or destroy the devices.  Nursing homes are not allowed under this law to discriminate or retaliate against a resident who installs the monitoring systems.

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In a shocking video that was shown to the jury at trial, two nursing home aides appeared to stuff a latex glove into the mouth of a 96-year-old nursing home resident. The resident was sitting in a wheelchair. The undercover video helped change laws in many states. Families can legally hide cameras inside their loved one’s room.

The video is disturbing in a number of ways. But most of all, it reveals the dangers that nursing home residents face each day. It remains so important for family and loved ones of nursing home residents to regularly visit and make it known to staff at the nursing home that they are regularly present. The more often visits are made, the less likely that something this horrific will occur again at an Illinois nursing home or long-term care facility.

In this particular case, a jury at the federal court house in Oklahoma City entered its verdict of $1.2 million for emotional distress and $10,000 in punitive damages. Given the intentional, vindictive and heartless acts of the nurse’s aides, the punitive damage part of the verdict seems light. However, this was a criminal act where the liberty of the two nurse’s aides has been taken.

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