In the past, nursing home abuse actions, especially in Chicago, were relatively rare for a variety of reasons, including difficulties in proving causation and the belief that substantial damages were unlikely to be awarded. However, tort litigation has been increasingly utilized to seek redress for these injuries; and substantial verdicts and settlements have been achieved.
Both intentional and unintentional torts can arise in a hospital or nursing home setting. Intentional torts including assault, battery, false imprisonment, and conversion are frequently alleged in nursing home litigation. For example, in Gragg v. Callandra, an Illinois court allowed claims for battery and intentional infliction of emotional distress to be maintained against defendant hospital for disregarding the patient's living will.
Additionally, claims regarding the improper use of physical or chemical restraints also are emerging. In Bryant v. Oakpointe Villa Nursing Centre, a decedent suffered from multi-infarct dementia and diabetes, had suffered several strokes, and required twenty-four-hour-a-day care for all her needs, including locomotion, dressing, eating, toileting, and bathing. Her condition impaired her judgment and reasoning ability and, in turn, caused cerebral atrophy. She had no control over her locomotive skills and was prone to sliding about uncontrollably and, therefore, she was at risk for suffocation by "positional asphyxia." Because she had no control over her locomotive skills, the nursing home's medical director authorized the use of various physical restraints, including bedrails, restraining vests, and wedges and bumpers. The decedent slipped between the rails of her bed and was in large part out of her bed with her lower half of her body on the floor. However, her head and neck were stuck under the bed side rail with her neck wedged in the gap between the rail and the mattress. This prevented her from breathing, which ultimately caused the patient's death. Here, the court upheld the validity of such a claim that the nursing home was liable for the patient's death due to the fact that the death occurred as a result of "positional asphyxiation" while in the facility's care.
Unintentional torts are predominantly claims of negligence in care or supervision such as result in falls or other injuries to residents. Several jurisdictions have imposed tort liability upon nursing homes for injuries sustained by residents as a result of negligent or intentional acts by the facility's employees. A nursing home also may be vicariously liable to a resident who is injured by another resident or by a third party who is not an employee. In addition, several states have created statutory private rights of action, ranging from statutes making explicit a nursing home resident's right to utilize common law remedies, notwithstanding the existence of statutory remedies, to schemes that set out rights and damages available to nursing home residents. The Illinois Nursing Home Care Act also provides for the recovery of attorney fees and costs. Litigants also have relied on consumer protection and related statutes to seek recovery from nursing facilities.
If you or someone you love has been injured, neglected or abused in a nursing home at the hands of nursing home caretakers, please contact Ed Fox & Associates today.
The information in this blog was provided by Elder Law: Advocacy for the Aging 2d, by Allen D. Bogutz, Robert N. Brown, Joan M. Krauskopf, and Karen L. Tokarz.