Hospital and/or doctor liability for mother's death from sepsis?

by Lisa
(Marlboro, NJ, USA)

My mother was harmed and suffered a wrongful death by negligent care in an acute hospital/skilled nursing facility/sub-acute rehabilitation hospital/nursing home.

My mother was admitted to an acute hospital in Sept. 2013 in NJ and had two successful procedures. She developed bacterial pneumonia and stage 2 bed sore ulcers in the hospital, but was released to the rehab anyway. They released her to a sub-acute rehab/skilled nursing facility/nursing home for physical therapy.

Because they believed it was medically futile to treat her, the infections (pneumonia and fungal skin) were misdiagnosed, improperly cared for and treated, causing sepsis which caused her death.

She died on Nov. 1, 2013 from sepsis/septic shock, metabolic acidosis, and arterial insufficiency due to neglectful timely diagnosis and treatment of bacterial pneumonia, septic pulmonary emboli, severe bed sore ulcers/infections, poor nutritional therapy, and no physical therapy.

The death certificate, however, states "failure to thrive" which is inaccurate and neglectful in itself.

I've spent the last year trying to get an attorney to review my mother's case, but as soon as I say she was 76 and had cancer, they refuse to review the detailed material because economic damages of an elderly person wouldn't be worth it to them.

Yes, she had cancer, but she did not die from her cancer. She died from lack of standard care in diagnosing and treating sepsis because she had cancer. As a matter of fact, she was not on her death bed but instead in Atlantic City with my father almost every week, and was there just a few days prior to being admitted to the hospital in Sept. 2013.

I personally witnessed the lack of standard care since I stayed with my mother 24/7 the entire time in the hospital and skilled nursing facility. We tried to demand they treat my mother's symptoms and not blame the cancer for everything, but we were ignored.

My mother suffered more from sepsis and bed sores (she screamed in pain) than she ever did from cancer. We also complained about the primary physician's care, or lack thereof, to the Director of Physicians.

My family wants to seek an evaluation regarding a potential legal case on behalf of my mother in regards to her death. After much research, I have found that what happened to my mother is a valid case about a big problem in getting proper treatment, as well as justice for improper treatment of the elderly and disabled.

Unfortunately, my mother suffered and died because of it, but that doesn't mean all those involved shouldn't be held accountable and have to answer for their actions or lack of actions. At least we would appreciate a thorough review of the facts before discounting a possible case based on age or the fact she had cancer.

We've been so disheartened that not one of the attorneys we've contacted would review the facts. They blatantly told us they would not take the case because her age would not provide a significant economic recovery in a medical malpractice case.

We don't know if this should be hospital malpractice, medical malpractice, medical negligence, wrongful death, or elder abuse. We do know my mother did not receive the standard of care in diagnosing and treating sepsis, which killed her, and that many of her patient right's were denied.

We were hoping that your organization could help or direct us to advocate on my mother's behalf as well as set a precedent. We want those responsible to be held accountable for their negligent actions or non-actions and know that their lack of care and treatment of a wonderful and loving 76 year old mother and cancer patient fighting for her life was unacceptable.

I know NJ has a 2-year statute of limitations and it is now 1 year and a few months after my mother's death. So, we would appreciate any and all information in accomplishing this as soon as possible.

I don't understand why lawyers in NJ are telling us they would not be able to recover enough compensatory damages or non-economic damages, because I don't believe their is a cap in NJ. There is a punitive damages cap of $350,000.

Again, I don't know what type of case this should be approached as, but I do know my mother's life mattered and she shouldn't have died from neglect. Thank you for any perspective or direction you can give.

Visitor Question:
Disclaimer: Information provided in our response is NOT formal legal advice. It is generic legal information based on the very limited information provided. Under no circumstances should the information in our response, or anywhere else on this site be relied upon when deciding the proper course of a legal matter. Our response does NOT create an attorney-client relationship. Always get a formal case review from a licensed attorney in your area.

ANSWER for "Hospital and/or doctor liability for mother's death from sepsis?":

Lisa (Marlboro, NJ, USA):

Unfortunately, the attorney's basis for not accepting the case is economically legitimate. When it comes to wrongful death cases, the income the deceased person would have made during the rest of his or her lifetime is a vital predicate for recovery.

Moreover, proving your mother died as a result of neglect perpetrated by one or more individuals or organizations would require expensive medical testimony. Under the circumstances, an attorney will not want to spend thousands of dollars on expert medical testimony only to recover a limited amount of money from the defendant(s).

Even if the neglect is obvious, you can be sure the organizations who you contend caused your mother’s wrongful death (and their insurance companies) will never initially admit to having done so. As a result, a trial will likely be necessary.

The case might eventually be settled, but only after protracted litigation including pretrial depositions, interrogatories, expert witness reviews, and more. There is just not enough money in a case like your mother's for an attorney to spend his or her money and time.

Contact Seton Hall Law School and Rutgers Law School. They have clinics for law students who are allowed to practice in courts when supervised by a licensed attorney. They might accept your case and not charge any fee upon recovery.

The above is general information. Laws change frequently, and across jurisdictions. You should get a personalized case evaluation from an attorney licensed in your state. Find a local attorney to give you a free case review here, or call (888) 647-2490.

Best of luck,

Judge Calisi

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Nursing home neglect
by: Donna

This is SO sad. My mom also died less than a month ago from sepsis in a nursing home. A 75 y/o lady that was VERY healthy...but didn't receive ANY lab work to indicate that she was sick. The cultures came back AFTER she died that she had staph.

I can't even begin to write out ALL the signs of neglect on not only the Nursing home, but the small hospital that she was taken to.

What it comes down to is NO ONE cares that these places are letting our parents suffer and die. And the attorneys only care about themselves...period!

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