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Nursing Home Abuse

Nursing homes owe a duty to their residents to treat them with dignity and respect. Those who are at a nursing home are there because they are physically or cognitively infirm and cannot care for themselves. Accordingly, they are the most vulnerable members of society. Many nursing homes treat their residents with the level of respect and care that they deserve. 

However, some skilled nursing facilities have staff members who actively mistreat the residents. Nursing home abuse is unfortunately something that must be dealt with throughout society. Not only can certain instances of nursing home abuse be considered criminal in nature, but they may also be a legal cause of action for your family.

The attorneys at the Nursing Home Law Center can help your family if your loved one has experienced abusive care at a nursing home. As described below, there is a fine line between ordinary mistreatment and something that rises to the level of abuse. Our attorneys can help you figure out if whatever your loved one is experienced is grounds for a lawsuit against the nursing home.

What is Nursing Home Abuse?

Nursing home abuse is a very broad classification that sweeps in many different types of mistreatment. Nursing home abuse can fall into several general categories. One type of nursing home abuse is sexual assault of residents. The other types of abuse of residents are physical and emotional abuse. While some nursing home staff members may simply be having a bad day and may be verbally or physically rough with the resident, at a certain point it crosses a line to where it can be thought of as abuse. 

Further, neglect of residents is another type of abuse. Residents who develop pressure ulcers and infections from a general lack of care have also successfully brought actions alleging abuse. Finally, taking advantage of a senior financially can also be considered abuse. What causes it to cross the threshold is a factual analysis that is specific to each case.

In addition, nursing home abuse does not have to be as a result of the actions of the staff. A resident can suffer abuse at the hands of another resident. When that happens, the nursing home may be liable on the grounds that they failed to protect the resident.

Both physical and verbal abuse can be legally actionable. Verbal abuse that is egregiously shocking can be the basis for a legal action, especially if that abuse is intended to degrade or cause emotional harm to a nursing home resident. Certainly, physical abuse that causes an injury could result in compensation for your family.

Nursing Homes’ Obligations to Keep Patients Safe and Free from Abuse

Nursing homes have many different obligations when it comes to instances where their residents may be abused. The requirements start at the hiring phase. A nursing home must run background checks of potential employees to both make sure that they have no prior incidents of abuse and that there are no felony convictions in general. Nursing homes can face regulatory action from the state and federal governments if they fail to do so. If a nursing home does not give the proper level of attention to these background checks, it will be another factor in a decision to hold them legally liable for the actions of their employees.

In addition, a nursing home must promptly investigate any allegation of abuse. The facility does not have the option of making their own judgment about the plausibility of an allegation without performing an investigation. This holds true even if the resident has a history of making far-fetched allegations of abuse. The nursing home must immediately report every abuse allegation to the state right after it has been filed with no exceptions.

Statistics on Nursing Home Abuse

If nursing home abuse seems prevalent, it is because statistics show that a large percentage of seniors are subject to some sort of mistreatment. A large majority of cases of elder abuse are not even reported to the authorities. There was a study of 2,000 nursing home residents, and 44 percent of them reported that they had experienced some kind of abuse. There is the possibility that some experienced abuse and did not even report it to the survey.

In addition, nursing home abuse is something that is very much a part of public consciousness. The media reports of elder mistreatment seem horrifying and garner many headlines. For example, there was a scandal at the Good Samaritan Society Nursing Home where four teenage nursing assistants performed horrific acts of abuse on elders including spitting in the residents mouths, invasive sexual touching and verbal abuse of residents. The four nursing assistants faced criminal charges and the state issued a large fine to the nursing home for the abuse. In addition, there was also a lawsuit that was filed on behalf of the residents. Headlines such as these are shocking and arouse public consciousness and ire.

The vulnerability and physical condition of nursing home residents mean that they will likely suffer more profound effects of the abuse. Seniors who have experienced abuse have a higher death rate than those who have not. The worse condition that a senior is in, the more likely they are to suffer abuse. Those with dementia have a higher abuse rate than seniors who do not have the condition, in part because they are less likely to be able to report mistreatment.

Again, most errors and mistakes made by nursing home can be argued as abuse. Juries may be more sympathetic to plaintiffs when there are allegations of abuse as opposed to mere negligence on the part of the nursing home.

Sample Nursing Home Abuse Verdicts & Settlements

Here are some instances in which plaintiffs have received financial compensation as a result of nursing home lawsuits alleging abuse.

Jury Verdict for $75,000 in Maryland (2004) – A resident was found on the floor with bruises on her body. The nursing home claimed that the bruises were natural since the resident bruised easily. The family alleged that another resident was physically abusing the resident and the nursing home failed to take steps to protect the resident. The resident’s son alleged that there were many assaults, and some of them were not reported to the family or to police. According to the lawsuit, the Maryland nursing home breached its duty by failing to move the resident to a safer place.

Jury Verdict for $11.1 million in New York (2012) – The resident was developmentally disabled. The lawsuit alleged that they were subject to a long pattern of psychological abuse. The resident had a condition where they repeated words that were spoken by others and staff members would use profanity and then laugh and mock him when he repeated those words. The NY nursing home’s defense was that the resident had the developmental capacity of a two-year old and could not understand that he was being mocked. There were punitive damages of $3.5 million included in the jury award.

Settlement for $550,000 in Illinois (2008) – A resident was allegedly pushed by another resident, resulting in a fall. The resident fractured her hip when she fell. This was the ultimate cause of her death. The lawsuit alleged that the IL nursing home failed to provide a safe environment and protect her from the other resident. In addition, the family claimed that these residents had threated the plaintiff in the past and the nursing home failed to take any action or intervene when other residents had physical confrontations with her.

Jury Verdict for $160 million in Texas (2005) – The resident was provided with a roommate who violently assaulted him. In the attack the resident suffered a brain injury, a concussion and a subdural hematoma. The lawsuit claimed that the nursing home placed a resident with a known tendency for violence in close proximity with the plaintiff. The lawsuit alleged that there were doctor’s warnings that the assailant was mentally challenged and should be placed in a locked area instead of in an unlocked area with the plaintiff. The TX nursing home was assessed punitive damages of $150 million as part of the total.

Settlement for $120,000 in Ohio (2013) – The resident was attacked by another resident and suffered a brain injury that resulted in his death. The fatal attack was the third in a series of attacks by the same assailant. The lawsuit alleged that the OH nursing home knew of the violent nature of the assailant and failed to take steps to remove the attacker from the facility and protect the resident who was assaulted. While there was a settlement, the nursing home was able to escape some liability because it was a mental health facility and was not liable for the acts of patients.

Has Your Loved One Been Physically Assaulted or Abused at a Nursing Home? Get Legal Help Now

The attorneys at the Nursing Home Law Center have been assisting families in obtaining justice for many years. Unfortunately, we are all too well versed in the area of nursing home abuse and have helped many families in this area. We can apply our expertise to the facts of your case and let you know if we believe that you have a viable lawsuit against the nursing home where your loved one was harmed. Call us today at (800) 726-9565 to find out how to proceed in your case.

Client Reviews
Jonathan did a great job helping my family navigate through a lengthy lawsuit involving my grandmother's death in a nursing home. Through every step of the case, Jonathan kept my family informed of the progression of the case. Although our case eventually settled at a mediation, I really was impressed at how well prepared Jonathan was to take the case to trial. Lisa
After I read Jonathan’s Nursing Home Blog, I decided to hire him to look into my wife’s treatment at a local nursing home. Jonathan did a great job explaining the process and the laws that apply to nursing homes. I immediately felt at ease and was glad to have him on my side. Though the lawsuit process was at times frustrating, Jonathan reassured me, particularly at my deposition. I really felt like Jonathan cared about my wife’s best interests, and I think that came across to the lawyers for the nursing home. Eric