Articles Posted in Wrongful Death

The Inspector General for the Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) released a report stating that at least one in four instances of elder abuse or neglect are not reported. While horrific in scope, the results are not entirely surprising – other, smaller samples have found that 15 to 20 percent of elder abuse cases were not reported to the proper authorities or government agencies. The most recent study, released by the HHS Inspector General, based its findings on a large sampling of cases spanning 33 states. The study, which pegged the underreporting rate at exactly 28 percent, was released with a demand that Medicare take “corrective action right away.”

Despite mandatory reporting laws by both the federal government virtually all states, the rathelpe of under-reporting remains stubbornly high. On the federal level, nursing homes are required to report any incidents involving a suspected crime immediately and any other case of suspected elder abuse within 24 hours. The Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services (CMS) can fine nursing homes up to $300,000 for failing to comply with the law. While such a strict timeline and the possibility of hefty fines would typically discourage non-compliance, the HHS report shows that the law requiring reporting of any elder abuse – whether physical, financial, sexual or otherwise – is mostly unenforced by CMS.
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As part of President Trump’s promise to roll-back federal regulations, the Trump administration has announced its intention to scrap a federal rule prohibiting nursing homes from requiring their residents to pursue legal claims through arbitration.

In the simplest terms, arbitration is a catch-all term for a dispute-resolution that, while legally binding, does not utilize the court system. The practice has exploded in popularity in recent decades – especially among larger corporations and nursing homes. These entities prefer arbitration because the costs are generally lower, the dispute resolution process moves much faster than the courts, and parties generally do not have a right to appeal thus providing both parties some finality to their dispwalking-out-300x225ute. Opponents of arbitration say the extra-judicial process favors corporate interests and curtails the rights of victims – from limiting discovery to removing the opportunity to appeal. Further, arbitration also removes the right for a person to have their case heard before a jury, and instead substitutes a so-called “neutral arbitrator.”
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With toothless regulations and ineffective oversight, many nursing homes are still failing the neediest patients. With its budget for overseeing nursing homes slashed in half, the Center for Medicare and Medicaid Services (CMS) has failed to identify failing nursing homes and keep them accountable. As a consequence, some nursing homes are choosing to accept the infrequent fines instead of changing their behavior.

helpCMS is responsible for overseeing all nursing homes that receive benefits from these federal entitlement programs. CMS routinely inspects nursing homes for any violations, if a violation is found, then CMS has two options. First, CMS can put the facility on “special focus” status – reserved for the worst offenders. A nursing home with this designation would be routinely inspected more often and, supposedly, would be punished more severely for any violations. Unfortunately, federal budget cuts have blunted the amount of nursing homes that can be put under “special focus.” Since 2012, the budget for inspecting facilities with this designation has dropped by half. Consequently, despite regulators identifying 435 facilities that warranted this designation, only 88 nursing homes were actually put on the watchlist. Further, once a Continue reading

On the morning of September 12, 2009, a man (identified only as “Plaintiff”) went missing from Arms Acres, a rehabilitation center for alcoholics. The Plaintiff, in addition to being an alcoholic, also suffered from schizophrenia and bipolar disorder, according to the Court’s decision. Shortly before going missing the Plaintiff became “extremely disoriented, began having hallucinations” and attempted to leave the facility. The Plaintiff apparently succeeded on leaving the facility the next morning – on September 12. Sadly, on October 18, 2009 the Plaintiff’s body was discovered. Continue reading

On June 17, 2013, a patient at Barnabas Nursing Home passed away from complications arising from her pressure ulcers. Her family has sued the nursing home and hospital and believes that their family member received negligent treatment and that the hospital and nursing home should be held responsible for her death. Continue reading

On February 27, 2008, a nursing home resident (whose name is not listed) at Sunrise Manor Center for Nursing and Rehabilitation passed away. The nursing home resident had only been at the center since February 19 – a mere 8 days. The cause of death was listed as septic shock – a condition where an infection is so serious that the body’s organs shut down. The nursing home resident’s family (Henry) proceeded to sue Sunrise Manor Center to recover damages based on the liability theories of: medical malpractice, wrongful death, violation of the Public Health Law, and negligent hiring and retention.  Sunrise Manor petitioned the court to dismiss all allegations against it. On February 1, 2017, the Supreme Court of the State of New York, Appellate Division, Second Judicial Department issued its ruling.

On the liability theory based on medical malpractice and wrongful death, Sunrise Manor must prove that either (1) there was no departure from “accepted medical practice”, or (2) if there was a departure, that the departure did not cause the resident’s death. Sunrise Manor provided expert testimony that there was no departure from the accepted standard of care. The resident’s family offered rebuttal expert testimony opining that the accepted standard of care was deviated by (1) failing to inform the resident’s physician of a high fever, and that (2) the failure to inform the physician led to the resident’s untimely death. The Court decided that there was a “triable issue of fact” – meaning that a jury (and not the judge) would decide whether Sunrise Manor had committed medical malpractice and therefore enabling the family to recover damages on the legal theory of “wrongful death.” Continue reading

A new wireless scanner may be able to detect pressure ulcers (commonly known as “bedsores”) earlier than current methods. The new technology was developed by Bruin Biometrics, a California company, and uses NASA technology. According to Bruin Biometrics, the new scanner can detect pressure ulcers up to four days earlier. Currently, pressure ulcers are mainly identified by visual inspection where nurses roll over patients and inspect their skin – a archaic and intrusive method.

Pressure ulcers are chronic wounds to a local area of skin and tissue, generally seen in patients that are bedridden or otherwise immobile. Pressure ulcers are a common, expensive, and frequently deadly medical condition. An estimated 11 percent of patients in “regulated care settings” (or, nursing homes) will develop pressure ulcers. In Ireland, pressure ulcers account for a full 4 percent of the country’s healthcare budget. Sadly, advanced pressure ulcers (stage three and stage four) can frequently be fatal and the number of fatalities caused by these ulcers is on the rise. Across the world, deaths attributable to pressure ulcers have increased almost 33 percent between 2000 and 2010.

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On Christmas morning, a certified nursing assistant (CNA) at Woodbriar Health Care in Wilmington, Massachusetts improperly placed a resident in a mechanical lift when transferring her from bed to wheelchair, causing the resident to slip out of the lift and fall, breaking both her legs. The CNA attempted the transfer alone in violation of an important safety rule related to mechanical lifts.

The resident, Mary Meuse, was visited by her youngest daughter on Christmas and told by a staff member X-rays showed no broken bones. As a retired nurse who once cared for the elderly, she did not want to be hospitalized during the holiday. However, the next morning she received a phone call saying her mother was in a lot of pain and needed to be taken to the hospital immediately; the family learned of her injuries upon arrival. Continue reading

Three nursing home employees in Nassau County have been arrested in connection with the death of nursing home resident at A. Holly Patterson Extended Care Facility.  Registered nurses, Sijimole Reji and Annieamma Augustine and certified nurse aide, Martine Morland were charged with neglect and endangerment of a resident. The patient relied on a mechanical ventilator to breathe and was completely dependent on the facility’s staff.

On December 20, 2015, the wheelchair bound resident became disconnected from her ventilator, setting off audio and visual alarms to alert staff of a life-threatening situation. The three employees were at the nursing station when the alarms sounded, however they did not immediately respond. Staff ignalarm-300x200ored the resident’s alarm for over nine minutes before they attempted to provide assistance to the patient. The resident was found unresponsive and unconscious; she was then transferred to Nassau University Medical Center, where she died the next day. Continue reading

The American Health Care Association (ACHA) filed a lawsuit against the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services (CMS) on Monday, October 17 in the U.S. District Court for the Northern District of Mississippi. The suit was filed after CMS finalized a regulation barring nursing homes from forcing residents to enter into arbitration agreements. ACHA and four long-term care providers filed a lawsuit against the secretary of Health and Human Services as well as the acting administrator of CMS.

An arbitration clause is a clause in a contract requiring parties to resolve issues through the arbitration process, therefore preventing disputes from being litigated in court. These clauses have forced claims of sexual harassment, elder abuse and even instances of wrongful death from being handled in an open court. CMS has issued a rule that will prevent nursing homes receiving federal funding from requiring arbitration clauses be signed in their contracts. Continue reading

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