In 2009 a 100-year-old patient at Brandon Woods Nursing Home (Massachusetts) was murdered by her 98-year-old roommate. A grand jury investigation determined that the victim’s death was related to the particularly violent acts of the roommate who strangled and suffocated her with a bag.
In the wake of the murder, the victims family filed a wrongful death lawsuit against the nursing home alleging amongst other things that the facility failed to take any interventional measures after violent episodes leading up to the murder. According to news reports relating to this incident, immediately before the murder the perpetrator had a heated argument with staff at the facility— yet the facility elected not to take any interventional acts.
After presenting the case to an arbitrator, the facility was found ‘not guilty’ and hence no compensation will be awarded to the victim’s family.
Cases such as this highlight the problems associated with pursuing a nursing home for civil damages following an injury or death of a patient perpetrated by a peer at the facility. From a legal perspective, cases such as this must be prosecuted in the same manner as any case involving the direct care of a facility. As the party initiating the lawsuit, the family or victim must establish that the nursing home’s negligence resulted in the outcome to the patient.
In cases involving violence or acts perpetrated by patients– against other patients at the facility, it can be difficult to establish the nexus between the nursing home’s negligence or omissions and the eventual act. Put another way, unless the perpetrator explicitly tells the facility of their intended acts or has acted in the exact same way on prior occasions, the acts of the perpetrator may simply be deemed unforeseeable.
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