State Appellate Court Finds That Claim Arising Out of Patient’s Fall at Nursing Home Required Expert Testimony to Prove Causation

The state appellate court in Nebraska held that a lawsuit against a nursing home arising out of a patient’s fall from bed required expert testimony to prove causation and was not subject to the common-knowledge exception.

In this case, Musa Gwelo suffered from multiple myeloma, chronic pain, depression, and tachycardia. She was admitted to Life Care Center of Elkhorn and fell out of bed just hours after her admission. She died less than one week later.

Her estate sued the nursing home and its affiliates for her wrongful death. The defendants moved successfully for summary judgment.

The trial court reasoned that the plaintiff had failed to provide rebuttal evidence on causation brought forth by the nursing home and could not proceed to trial under the common-knowledge exception to the rule requiring expert testimony to prove causation.

In affirming the trial court’s dismissal, the appeals panel noted that when the nature of an alleged injury is subjective, a plaintiff must prove causation and the extent of damages through expert testimony. This means that the Gwelo family was required to have provided a medical expert to testify to a reasonable degree of medical certainty about the extent of the injuries suffered by Gwelo and, ultimately, the cause of such injuries. The common knowledge exception rule attached, the court said, where causation is obvious to a lay person and a court can infer causation as a matter of law.

In this case, the court found that she had suffered from numerous other medical issues, including multiple myeloma for eight years, before her admission to the defendant’s facility. The court also found that the myeloma had taken a significant toll on her health and mortality.

The defendants’ expert testified that Gwelo’s brain bleed, which was diagnosed after her fall, could have resulted from low platelets, not the fall. The Gwelo family presented no medical expert rebuttal testimony or evidence to the nursing home’s expert whose opinions went uncontested.

Therefore, the appellate court concluded that the trial court had not erred in concluding that the defendants’ conduct was not such an obvious cause of Gwelo’s injuries that made expert testimony unnecessary.

For these reasons, the dismissal of the case by the trial court was affirmed.

Apkan v. Life Care Centers of America Inc., 2018 WL 3733633 (Neb. Ct. App.).

Kreisman Law Offices has been handling Illinois nursing home abuse lawsuits, nursing home negligence cases and wrongful death lawsuits 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 Schaumburg, Maywood, Berkeley, Villa Park, Yorkfield, Glenview, Wilmette, Evanston, Morton Grove, Niles, Palatine, Rolling Meadows, Hoffman Estates, Oak Forest, Harvey, Chicago (Lakeview, Lakewood Balmoral, Canaryville, Cragin, DePaul University Area, Wrigleyville, Kelvyn Park, Jefferson Park, Irving Park, Horner Park, Roscoe Village, Sauganash, UIC, Loyola Park, Little Italy, Lincoln Park, Old Town Triangle, Prairie District, Ravenswood Manor, Rogers Park), Norwood Park, Lockport, Lansing, Lynwood, St. Charles and Geneva, Ill.

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