There is nothing new about nursing homes being sued. Unfortunately, it happens each and every day. That being said, there are some cases that have occurred over the course of the last several years that are truly shocking. Here are 10 of them.
10. Mare v. Neuwirth, 2016 (Still in Litigation)
This is a particularly unique case that occurred within the state of Oklahoma. As a matter of fact, it all started when a resident of a nursing home in Lawton, Oklahoma died, reportedly from a fall. The family member decided to sue the nursing home for negligence, but the case did not end there.
The deceased individual’s family eventually made the decision to sue the shareholders of the nursing home as well as the company and the individual staff members that were involved at the time that the relative fell. This was something that had never before been done. As a direct result, these individuals faced a serious uphill battle that eventually involved the Oklahoma Supreme Court. At first, it was ruled that an individual could not sue the shareholders of the company as if they were liable because they weren’t present at the time of the incident, nor at any other time.
After the case had gone through several courts and eventually been heard by the Oklahoma Supreme Court, the change was made to the ruling. While this particular case is still in litigation with regard to any damages that may be awarded, a ruling has already been made that individuals can indeed sue shareholders in cases such as these. This changes the face of the industry and hopefully, it will end up being a positive aspect for individuals who want to ensure that their loved ones are well taken care of when they are in these facilities.
9. Small v. Park View Nursing Home LLC ($2 million)
This is truly one of the most shocking cases that’s ever occurred. It involves an individual who lived at the aforementioned nursing home. The patient had a history of chronic health problems such as congestive heart failure. The problem is that he had been sent to the hospital on something that was considered non-emergency. As a result, he was shortly sent back to the nursing home where he was apparently left to both roam around and fend for himself. As opposed to the staff checking him into his room and making sure that he was doing well, he somehow slipped through the cracks.
Eventually, the patient walked out of the facility unnoticed. It took several hours for any of the staff members to realize that he was supposed to be back, yet he was nowhere to be found. Some of the staff members thought that he was still at the hospital and others had no idea where he was whatsoever. Apparently, this was never mentioned during any of the shift changes. Ultimately, the patient was missing for eight days.
During that time, he went without his medication. He also had a shunt that was being used for dialysis which became badly infected. The patient eventually developed pneumonia and a more widespread infection took its toll as he became septic and lost his life. It was determined in this lawsuit that the nursing home was solely responsible for his death because they failed to ensure that he made it to his room and that he was securely at the facility.
8. Sherrer v. Liberty Manor Residency ($11 million)
This is one of the more unique lawsuits to occur against any type of nursing home, in this particular case, an assisted living facility. The individual named in the lawsuit had been transferred to this assisted living facility after suffering a traumatic brain injury in a car accident which essentially left him unable to care for himself. However, he was reportedly doing well enough that he could survive in such a facility that provided 24-hour care to help him with his needs.
Unfortunately, his traumatic brain injury also caused him to do things that most people would refrain from doing. In his particular case, it involved eating inedible objects such as candy wrappers, foil and even a sandwich bags. Eventually, the ingestion of these items contributed to his death, something that was confirmed in an autopsy. A lawsuit was brought against the assisted living facility because it was determined that if he had been receiving proper care, he would not have been able to ingest these items in such large quantities.
7. Butler v. Brian Center Rehabilitation & Health ($15 million)
This is another case that involved a serious case of neglect in which an individual was denied adequate nutrition that ultimately led to his death. It was also alleged that nursing home staff failed to turn him in bed, leading to bed sores. Eventually, the investigation also determined that he was left to lie in his own waist for hours, on a regular basis.
Although he had been at the facility for five years and family had initially reported that they were satisfied with his care, things took a turn for the worse. Eventually, these actions led to the man’s death and the family ultimately sued the facility. After being tied up in court for some time, they were eventually awarded $15 million in damages.
6. Cote v. Forum at Desert Harbor ($19.2 million)
Cote’s family alleged that she was completely covered in bed sores at the time that they went to see her and that she had lost a significant amount of weight in the six months that she had been at this particular facility. They felt that she had been so badly neglected that they made the decision to transfer her to an entirely different facility that offered better care.
Unfortunately, she subsequently died from pneumonia, something that the family believed was brought on by the neglect that she had received at Desert Harbor. As a result, they brought a lawsuit against the facility and they were eventually awarded $19.2 million as a settlement.
5. Solomon v. Developmental Systems, Inc. ($45.5 million)
This particular case involved Ilana Solomon, who was only 26 years old at the time of her death. The death occurred when her live-in caregiver left her alone in the bathtub for anywhere between 5 and 10 minutes. She had a full-time caregiver because she had a number of developmental delays that made it impossible for her to care for herself. She also suffered from significantly decreased vision as well as problems hearing.
It was determined in part that her death would not have occurred if her caregiver had not left her in the bathtub. Since her death was a direct result of drowning and it was well known that she could not safely bathe on her own, she never should have been left alone to begin with. Despite that fact, her caregiver left her alone in the bathroom and exited the room. As a result, Solomon’s family was eventually awarded $45.5 million in damages.
4. The Ensign Group, Inc. ($48 million)
This is another case that makes most people shake their heads. It alleges that this particular nursing home deliberately billed patients and their families for therapy that the actual patients never received. In many cases, these individuals weren’t even prescribed such therapy, yet individuals who were on Medicare or who had good insurance were billed for the procedures anyway.
Unfortunately, this is a practice that went on for a number of years before someone finally caught it and brought it to the attention of the courts. While the nursing home was ultimately ordered to pay $48 million in restitution, that doesn’t necessarily help the multiple families that were adversely affected by these activities. This particular case involves a class action lawsuit that ultimately keeps the money awarded tied up in court for a number of years. In addition, the family members of those who were directly impacted are not likely to see a significant amount of money in the end, if anything at all.
3. Douglas v. Heartland of Charleston ($90 million)
Douglas was admitted to this particular facility with an official diagnosis of Alzheimer’s and Parkinson’s disease. She was only in the facility for 19 days before her death which resulted as the direct result of significant dehydration. It was later discovered that the dehydration occurred because of inadequate care from staff.
Contributing factors involved an exceptionally high turnover rate at this particular facility and inadequate training. Unfortunately, it was also discovered that the particular facility had a tendency to pay its staff some of the lowest wages in the industry. It is believed that this was ultimately a contributing factor to Douglas’s death, as many of the staff members were unhappy and unmotivated while at work.
It’s absolutely unfathomable that staff members would fail to provide adequate care because they’re not happy in their job or they don’t feel like they’re being paid enough, but this was a case that uncovered the darker side of nursing homes and the way they do business. It was found that this particular nursing home offered the very least in the way of nutrition, adequate care or pay for staff, yet they were recording some of the highest profits in the state.
2. Nunziata v. Pinellas Park Care ($200 million)
There was a series of errors that occurred here which resulted in this person’s death. Eventually, that series of errors was determined by the court system to involve widespread neglect. The staff apparently knew that Nunziata had a tendency to roam from one area to the other. It was also known that she was wheelchair-bound and she was kept on a level of the facility other than the ground level.
Since she had a tendency to get out of her room, she was outfitted with a number of alarms on her wheelchair as well as her clothing. Despite the fact that those alarms went off when she got out of her room, no one addressed the issue. She was also kept in a hallway that had a safety door which was designed to prevent her from getting into a section of the building where there were stairs. That door was left wide open, despite the fact that an alarm was also included on it.
Nunziata ultimately went down the hall, out the door and inadvertently rolled her wheelchair down a flight of stairs which resulted in her death. It also exposed the significant level of neglect and complacency that occurred in this facility, something that unfortunately isn’t entirely uncommon.
1. Preferred Care, Inc. ($229 million)
This is a lawsuit that centered around staffing shortages that were ultimately found to be put in place by the above named company. The lawsuit claimed that a number of individuals were not receiving the care that they needed and eventually, a class action lawsuit was brought against the company for their failure to provide adequate staffing.
Part of the problem revolved around the fact that while nurses were supposed to work no more than 8 hour shifts in order to ensure that they didn’t become overly tired or burnt out and make unnecessary mistakes, they were in fact working several more hours. In some cases, they were working what amounted to back-to-back 8 hour shifts with no break in between. This ultimately led to a number of mistakes with regard to patient care as well as medication errors.
At first, the company denied any wrongdoing. Eventually, it became much more difficult for them to cover up the fact they did not have an adequate number of staff on hand at any given point in time, especially as more and more people began complaining. Despite repeated requests by family members, the company failed to enhance their staffing in order to keep their costs down. Eventually, the case was brought against the company in the state of New Mexico.