Home Caregiver’s Negligence Does Not Amount to Medical Malpractice Claim

A state court has found that the plaintiff’s claim that a home health caregiver and agency may be liable for the caregiver’s negligence in supervising a patient but it did not amount to a medical negligence case.

Tammy Upchurch was an employee of Right at Home; she was assigned to provide at-home caregiving services to Ida Stratz. During Upchurch’s shift, she fell asleep. While Upchurch was sleeping, Stratz wandered outside her residence. Several hours later, she was found lying face-down in the snow, unconscious.

Stratz was taken to a nearby hospital where she died. Stratz’s estate sued Upchurch and Right at Home, alleging liability for Stratz’s death.

The defendants filed a motion to dismiss, arguing that the Stratz estate complaint sounded in medical malpractice but lacked the necessary good faith opinion letter that was required under Connecticut law.

In denying the motion, the court found that to determine whether a claim against the health care provider was for medical negligence, a court must first review the circumstances under which the alleged negligence took place. Citing case law, the court noted that a claim constitutes one for medical negligence where defendants are sued in their capacities as medical professionals, the alleged negligence is of a specialized nature that arises out of the patient-physician relationship, and the alleged negligence is substantially related to medical misdiagnosis or treatment and the exercise of medical judgment.

The Stratz complaint alleged that Upchurch’s failure to watch over Stratz while she was asleep allowed Stratz to leave the residence in the middle of the night and suffer hypothermia while outside.

These allegations, the court said, do not make out a medical negligence case and are unrelated to a medical diagnosis and do not involve specialized medical care related to a patient-physician relationship.

Accordingly, the court concluded, because the allegations in the Stratz complaint concern ordinary negligence, the defendants’ motion to dismiss based on the plaintiff’s alleged decision not to comply with the statutory opinion letter requirements was properly denied.

The attorney that represented the Stratz family was Jeffrey M. Cooper.

Stratz v. Upchurch, 2019 WL 632780 (Conn. Super. Ct.).

Kreisman Law Offices has been handling home health care negligence lawsuits, nursing home negligence cases, nursing home wandering lawsuits and medical malpractice cases for individuals, families and loved ones who have been harmed, injured or died as a result of the carelessness or negligence of a medical provider for more than 40 years in and around Chicago, Cook County and its surrounding areas, including Antioch, Waukegan, Joliet, Aurora, St. Charles, Hinsdale, Wheaton, Evanston, Wilmette, Skokie, Schaumburg, Chicago (Beverly Woods, Morgan Park, Princeton Park, Cottage Grove Heights, Stoney Island Park, South Chicago, Avalon Park, Wrightwood, Mount Greenwood, Hyde Park, Wrigleyville, Near North, Fulton River District, East Garfield Park, Bridgeport, Canaryville), Lake Zurich, Rolling Meadows, Deerfield, Streamwood and Clarendon Hills, Ill.

Robert D. Kreisman has been an active member of the Illinois and Missouri bars since 1976.

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