We’d like to think that beauty of our jury system is that it allows reasonable people to hear evidence about a dispute and render a rational decision based upon the evidence presented. After all, the people on the jury are in the best position to render a fair and impartial decision— right? Similarly, if a jury comprised of fair and rational people can arrive at one decision, how could anyone think otherwise?
The concept of diverging views of in civil lawsuits is nothing new, but I was again reminded of the extreme disparity between the findings from a jury and those from nursing home surveyors in a recent article written by Michael Booth in The Denver Post, “Jury says man died due to Rocky Ford nursing home’s negligence; state differs”.
The situation Booth contrasts is the recent situation involving a nursing home negligence lawsuit in Colorado where a jury awarded the family of a deceased resident $3.2 million due to the facilities alleged negligence in allowing a resident to develop stage 4 pressure sore. Meanwhile, the same situation was investigated by authorities from the state’s Health Department and the facility was not cited for any type of “deficient practice because the investigation did not substantiate current deficient practice.”
If that mumbo-jumbo was too much for you to understand— like myself— it simply means that the facility was found not to be negligent in relation to the care of this patient.
No deficient practice? While I’m sure there are medical experts out there that opine that the development of a stage 4 pressure sore (the most advanced stage), the overwhelming medical literature suggests that a stage 4 pressure sore is a medical complication that simply should not occur. In fact, Medicare has deemed stage 3 and state 4 pressure sores that develop during a hospitalization to be simply inexcusable that they are part of the list of ‘never events’– medical complications deemed so inexcusable that hospitals will not be reimbursed by medicare when they occur at their facilities.
Perhaps the surveyor(s) involved in the investigation of this matter were simply having an ‘off day’ at the time they conducted their inspection? While indeed a possibility, I’d suspect that it’s more unlikely–particularly in situations such as this– where there are relatively ‘clear cut” situations involving poor nursing home care, my hunch is that there is a more drastic underlying problem that needs to be addressed when it comes to calling out poor nursing home care.
While situations such as this can be discouraging for families who wish to report episodes of poor nursing home care, I continue to suggest to families that they indeed need to report all episodes of poor nursing home care or injuries to the regulatory agencies within their states. While the ultimate findings of the agency may lack the decisiveness that many families crave, the investigations may still turn up valuable evidence for use in civil matter.
Considering that some of these state investigative reports lack any credible findings, it may be a good thing that they are generally inadmissible in civil trials. Thankfully, there still are some dedicated jurors who are able to use their common sense to determine right from wrong.
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