As an attorney who spends a good amount of time evaluating nursing home negligence cases, I am frequently asked, ‘what makes a case good?” Obviously, we are referring to a litigation context where the term ‘good’ is all relative– but there are several factors which make some nursing home injury cases more appealing to me in a litigation context.
Why some nursing home cases are ‘better’ than others
While we can literally write a treatise about what distinguishes ‘good’ v. ‘bad’ accident cases, in the nursing home setting I tend to give a strong preference to cases involving short-term rehabilitation. Or circumstances that arise after a patient spends just a few days or weeks at a facility.
Of course there are plenty of bad things that can happen to a patient regardless if a patient was at a facility for 24-hours, 24-days or 24-months. Certainly, I’m not giving a pass to a situation where a patient is harmed– but what makes some short-term injury cases more desirable for the perspective of a plaintiff’s attorney is that these nursing home accident cases very frequently involve a situation where staff members are not familiar with the patients needs to care plan set forth by their physician. These unfamiliarity’s commonly play at least some part in episodes involving patient decline or even fatalities.
A before & after contrast resonates with jurors
Having litigated a number cases involving patient injury during a short-term admission, these cases tend to resonate well with a judge or jury as the concept of a patient literally walking into a facility only to be rushed to a hospital for serious complication the days and weeks following is usually more indicative of inferior care than a person who may have spent years at a facility before a problem developed.
I began to consider the recurring themes of short-term nursing home admissions and the accompanying problems when I read about a recently filed nursing home abuse lawsuit involving a facility in Southern Illinois. As reported in The Telegraph article “Nursing home sued over woman’s death,” the article discussed an all too familiar situation where just several weeks after their initial admission the patient is rushed to hospital for ensuing medical complications. The nursing home lawsuit alleges that Eldercare of Alton and the patient’s treating physician, Dr. Rajnikant K. Patel were responsible for allowing the patient to develop a deadly infection that ultimately claimed the patient’s life.
In this case, the allegations of neglect were verified by the Illinois Department of Public Health during an investigation of the facility following the patient’s death where it was determined that “[b]ased on record review and interview, the facility neglected to assess, monitor and implement interventions for a decline in condition.”
The ‘decline’ in the patients condition necessitated an admission to nearby St. Anthony’s Hospital where the patient was treated for:
- Septic shock
- Multi-system failure
- Metabolic encephalopathy
- Myocardial infarction
- Severe urinary tract infection
- Elevated Digoxin levels (blood thinner)
More than a coincidence? We’ll see.
Could the above conditions develop if the staff at Eldercare of Alton were following the patient’s care plan? Of course it’s possible, but if my experience is any indication of care provided in this case, my guess is that this is more than a mere coincidence?