legal resources necessary to hold negligent facilities accountable.
Nursing homes will generally provide a variety of different care services to their residents. Skilled nursing facilities are responsible for helping residents with the activities of daily life depending on each of the residents’ needs. In addition, there are also medical staff, including physicians on hand to care for residents’ medical needs.
The attorneys at the Nursing Home Law Center can help you with medical malpractice cases against nursing homes. They are well-versed in the laws of negligence and how they apply to nursing homes.
There are many instances in which nursing homes have failed to provide the appropriate medical care for their residents. The issue is whether and how nursing homes can be found legally responsible for any failures in this area. Oftentimes, lawsuits against nursing home operators will allege both deficiencies in the daily care for each resident as well as medical malpractice on the part of the physicians whose job it is to treat the resident.How to Prove a Medical Malpractice Case Against a Nursing Home
The same general rules of regular medical malpractice apply when it is a nursing home that has to defend against the claim. Below are the elements that must be proven in a medical malpractice lawsuit against a nursing home. These are the same elements that are found in any negligence case.
- The nursing home owed a duty of care to the resident – This will obviously be the easiest element for any plaintiff to prove. By virtue of their residency in the nursing home, the facility owes the duty of care to the resident. This will most likely not be the issue that is contested at a trial.
- The nursing home breached its duty of care – This will be the most contested element of the case. In other words, a plaintiff will have to show that the nursing home medical staff did not act as a reasonable nursing home would. This is going to be where a plaintiff will have to show that an error was made as a reasonable nursing home would provide professional care that is mistake-free. In other words, there is standard of care that a reasonable nursing home would have used in the same situation which this particular nursing home did not do.
- The plaintiff suffered injury – Again, given the circumstances, this will be an easier element to prove and will likely not be where the case is won or lost. Most injuries suffered by residents of nursing home seem obvious.
- The nursing homes actions caused the injury – This will be another area where there may be a legal difference of opinion during the course of a case. The nursing home’s lawyers will invariably claim that whatever injury that plaintiff had would have happened anyway. In other words, the nursing home will say that the injury was a result of whatever existing medical issue the resident has as opposed to the actions of the nursing home’s physician. Alternatively, the nursing home will argue that the resident may have suffered the injury at whatever hospital they were being treated at before they were sent to the nursing home.
Medical malpractice at nursing homes can take on any one of a number of different forms. It is plausible to claim that nearly all legal actions against a nursing home, including pressure ulcers and other neglect cases, can be considered to be a medical malpractice case. Alternatively, the specifics of the medical care could be at issue in the legal proceedings.
For example, the physician could have missed a medical issue by failing to diagnose it and obtain the proper treatment for the resident. Another example would be when the physician gives treatment orders for the resident, but the staff fails to follow those orders in whole or in part when treating the resident. Another example is when staff fails to communicate changes in the resident’s condition to the physician so the medical professional can diagnose and treat the condition.Regulatory Standards for Nursing Homes
When it comes to the standard of care, there are actually some regulatory standards that are prescribed. Specifically, federal regulations mandate that a nursing home must follow when providing medical care is described in the Code of Federal Regulations. This standard is that nursing homes “must provide services and activities to attain or maintain the highest practicable physical, mental, and psychosocial well-being of each resident in accordance with a written plan of care.”
Of course, what constitutes a breach of the duty of care is a matter at issue in each case. There is even a section in the Code of Federal Regulations that gives some more specific guidelines for individual areas of care. For example, residents must be seen by a physician “at least once every 30 days for the first 90 days after admission, and at least once every 60 days thereafter.” At the visit, the physician must:
- Review the resident's total program of care, including medications and treatments
- Write, sign, and date progress notes at each visit; and
- Sign and date all orders with the exception of influenza and pneumococcal vaccines, which may be administered per physician-approved facility policy after an assessment for contraindications.
Given the broad scope of what can be considered medical malpractice in a nursing home, accurate statistics are hard to come by. Oftentimes, medical malpractice will be but one ground of a lawsuit that contains multiple claims. For example, the resident could have developed pressure ulcers that became severely infected and, somewhere in the process, there may have been a medical error or the failure to provide the appropriate medical care to the resident. However, in other cases, the medical error could be the primary cause of the resident’s injury.Sample Medical Malpractice Lawsuits Against Nursing Homes
Below are some examples of successful lawsuits that were filed against nursing homes that involved a claim of medical malpractice.
Jury verdict for $10.2 million in California (2015) – The lawsuit was brought on behalf of a minor child who was born premature and was a resident of the nursing facility. The minor suffered from seizure disorder and was required to regularly tale medications to prevent seizures. The medical malpractice ground was that the facility failed to administer the minor’s anti-seizure medication to him, resulting in a seizure. The nursing home denied that the resident missed a dose of medication. Included in the damages was a punitive award of $4.5 million. For more information on California nursing homes, look here.
Jury verdict for $2 million in New York (2006) – The resident wandered from nursing home and was a day later. In the meantime, the resident developed pneumonia and sepsis which ultimately led to his death. The medical malpractice allegedly occurred because a shunt had been created as a result of the resident’s need for dialysis. This shunt created a pathway for bacteria to enter the body. In addition, the resident’s family claimed that the failure to give the resident his medication led to congestive heart failure, which caused the resident to feel like he was drowning for the last eight days of his life. For more information on New York nursing homes, look here.
Settlement for $850,000 in Massachusetts (2011) – Physicians had prescribed painkillers which caused an overdose and death. Specifically, the resident had been prescribed a combination of painkillers. The plaintiff alleged that medical showed that the dose of two of these painkillers was excessive. At the same time, the resident did not receive the dosage of another required medication. There was no autopsy to establish the cause of death, but the nursing home settled the case without admitting liability.
Settlement for $75,000 in Louisiana (2011) – The resident had suffered from multiple sclerosis. They were prescribed a certain medication. The resident had fallen out of their wheelchair and, upon examination, the doctor noted a sensitivity to a urinary tract infection and ordered tests. The resident’s husband advised the staff that he believed that his wife had a urinary tract infection. He asked that she be taken to a hospital where she died from sepsis. The lawsuit claimed that the nursing home staff failed to communicate changes in the resident’s condition to the physicians. The nursing home stipulated that it committed malpractice and settled the claim.
Verdict for $28.5 million in Kentucky (2018) – The resident was a stroke victim and an amputee who developed nausea and dehydration. Although the resident was in obvious distress, he was not transported to a hospital for 27 hours. In other words, the nursing home allegedly failed to obtain the proper medical care for him. After a stay in the hospital where he was rehydrated, the resident fell when he was returned to the nursing home and broke his hip in three places. The lawsuit alleged that the hospital intentionally did not transfer him to the hospital for reimbursement reasons. Included in the jury award was $25 million in punitive damages for willful and wanton conduct. For more information on Kentucky nursing homes, look here.Has Your Loved One Suffered Injury due to Medical Malpractice at a Nursing Home? Get Legal Help Now
Contact the attorneys at the Nursing Home Law Center today to set up your free no-risk case consultation if you believe that a nursing home committed medical malpractice that injured your loved one. We fight for the legal rights of families against nursing homes who will take every step possible to avoid paying families fair financial compensation for the harm that their loved ones suffer. Call us today at (800) 726-9565 to see how we can help you and your family stand up for your legal rights. Make sure to get in touch with us as soon as possible to make sure that your case is filed within the appropriate statute of limitations.Nursing Home Abuse & Neglect Resources