Virginia S. v. Salt Lake Care Center (741 P.2d 969)

utah-elderly-man-abuse-neglect-nursing-home-300x200Articles: Utah

Virginia S. v. Salt Lake Care Center (741 P.2d 969)

CASE:
Virginia S. v. Salt Lake Care Center (741 P.2d 969)
PARTIES:
Plaintiff (Appellee) – Virginia S., Guardian as Litem of T.W., an Incompetent Person
Defendant (Appellant) – Salt Lake Care Center
COURT:
Court of Appeals of Utah (1987)
PROCEDURAL HISTORY:

Virginia S. sued Salt Lake Care Center for negligence after her daughter, and incompetent individual and resident of the nursing home, was discovered to be pregnant. Salt Lake Care Center moved for a directed verdict. The trial court granted the motion. Virginia S. appealed.

SUMMARY OF FACTS:

T.W., the daughter of the named plaintiff, was 17 years old when she was admitted to the Care Center in August of 1979. At that time she suffered from neuro- degenerative disorder, severe mental retardation, progressive dementia, seizures, muscle weakness, and failing sight and hearing.

During her stay at the Care Center, she experienced periods of improvement, during which she was able to walk, feed herself, go to the bathroom on her own, recognize her mother, and communicate to a limited degree. She also experience periods of deterioration during which time she could not perform these minimal activities. She was also prone to bouts of irrationality and violence.  When she was physically able to do so, T.W. was free to leave her bed.

On one occasion, she ran away and was missing for 12 hours. She was unable to use the Care Center’s bell system to call for assistance and required constant supervision. At no time during her stay at the Care Center was T.W. capable of consenting to sexual intercourse. In September 1981, the Care Center notified her mother that T.W. was pregnant. The identity of the person who raped T.W. and the exact circumstances under which the rape occurred were never established.

After T.W. gave birth to a daughter, her mother as Guardian ad Litem, sued the Care Center for negligence, relying on the doctrine of res ipsa loquitur.

OUTCOME AT TRIAL:

The trial court granted the defendant’s motion for directed verdict, finding that there was insufficient evidence to make a prima facie case for each element of res ipsa loquitur.

ISSUES ON APPEAL:

Did the trial court err in granting Salt Lake Care Center’s motion for directed verdict?

SUPREME COURT HOLDINGS:
Yes
RELEVANT APPLICATION OF LAW:
Res Ipsa Loquitur is applicable when: (1) The accident was of a kind which, in the ordinary course of events, would not have happened had the defendant used due care, (2) the instrument or thing causing the injury was at the time of the accident under the management and control of the defendant, and (3) the accident happened irrespective of any participation by the plaintiff.

“Although the nursing home is not the insurer of the safety of its patients, nevertheless, it is the duty of the nursing home to provide a reasonable standard of care taking into account the patient’s mental and physical condition.”

  • Lemoine v. Insurance Co. of North America, 449 So.2d 1004, 1007 (La.App.1986)

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