This is a review of a medical malpractice court case. In this case, the family of an elderly woman who had recently died contended the woman’s death was caused by the negligence of both her nursing home and a local area hospital.
The suit alleged the woman needed hospitalization after nursing home orderlies failed to properly assist her and she fell. The suit also claimed that the hospital she was taken to failed to properly handle her post-surgical care. The family asked the court to find both parties liable in the wrongful death of the woman.
Statement of Facts…
On January 3rd, 2011, Gina Andez was a patient in the October Church Home. Andez normally ate her lunch at 12:00 noon each day. At 11:45 each day it was the duty of one of the nursing home orderlies to take Andez from her room to the dining hall. This day Andez had to wait for the orderlies to come by.
Although able to walk, Andez, because of her age and infirm condition, required assistance to climb out of her bed and into a wheelchair. It was already noon and Andez was hungry. Not wanting to wait any longer,
Andez climbed out of bed and began to make her way down the hall toward the dining hall. She left her room and turned to begin her walk. As she left the room, she slipped and fell, breaking her left hip, otherwise known as a “femoral fracture.”
Andez was taken by ambulance to Keaton Memorial Hospital. She was admitted into the emergency room in great pain and discomfort. The on-call physician ordered Demerol and Alprazolam. He sent Andez to the Radiology Department for an MRI examination. He also ordered a CAT Scan. The results of the examinations revealed a compound femoral fracture to Andez’s left hip.
Because of the splintering of the femur, surgery was required and included the insertion of pins to bind the femoral bone. Surgery was successfully performed, and Andez was required to remain in the hospital for observation.
Three days after surgery Andez began to develop a fever. Although noted on her chart, two days passed before the on-call physician ordered a blood workup. The blood tests revealed a staph infection developed post-surgery.
By the time antibiotics were prescribed, the infection had progressed to a critical state. Andez developed pneumonia and 48 hours later died.
In their medical malpractice court case Andez’s attorneys contended October breached the standard of care required of them in the care and treatment of patients. This breach of the standard of care was tantamount to negligence.
They contended October’s failure to provide the care expected of it resulted in the negligent wrongful death of Andez. The lawsuit contended if the orderlies had assisted Andez into her wheelchair, Andez would not have had to walk to the dining hall.
Her frail and infirm condition together with her having to walk to the dining hall resulted in her falling and fracturing her hip. That fall resulted in her hospitalization which led to pneumonia and her ultimate wrongful death.
In their lawsuit, Andez’s attorneys also contended Keaton breached the standard of care required of them in their care and treatment of patients. That breach of the standard of care was also tantamount to negligence.
The on-call physician’s and hospital staffs’ failure to recognize the severity of Andez’s staph infection and the highly probable pneumonia which might naturally follow, combined with the physician’s failure to prescribe the antibiotics to fight the infection, resulted in Andez’s ultimate and untimely wrongful death.
After hearing the arguments of attorneys for both sides and hearing the evidence presented in this medical malpractice court case, the Court ruled as follows:
“The Plaintiff provided by a preponderance evidence that Defendant October owed Andez the standard of care Andez came to rely upon when she was admitted to October’s Nursing Home.
The unrefuted evidence clearly established Andez came to expect the orderlies to assist her into her wheelchair and transport her to the dining hall each day at approximately 11:45 a.m. When the orderlies failed to assist her, Andez’s decision to walk and her resultant fall were imputed to the Defendant October.
The Plaintiff also provided by a preponderance of evidence that Defendant Keaton Memorial Hospital owed Andez a standard of care, and although Andez did not come to an agreement with Church to provide to her the appropriate care and treatment, the standard of care must be imputed to Keaton.
The standard of care owed by Keaton to Andez was breached. That breach manifested itself when October failed to recognize the staph infection developed by Andez. That failure resulted in the ultimate wrongful death of Andez.”
Over the years Courts have established the existence of standards of care owed by various entities to those who provide various degrees of care to others. The Courts have developed through common law the requirement of one of the highest standards of care between medical providers and the elderly and infirm.
The Courts have maintained that high standard of care because a breach of that standard has a greater potential to cause serious injury or death to those for whom that standard of care is owed. Finding a breach of the standard of care is usually the core of a medical malpractice court case.
Many lawsuits are filed as a result of the absence of written statutes which might otherwise govern the behavior which led to the actions supporting a lawsuit.
In the absence of clear and concise laws which would define each party’s behavior, the Courts have existed to intervene and create new law, or rely upon law previously decided by the Courts. The intervention of the Courts helps interpret existing statutes and creates new law where necessary. In doing so the Courts are said to be relying upon the “Common Law”.
*This case example is for educational purposes only. It is based on actual events although names have been changed to protect those involved. Any resemblance to real persons or entities is purely coincidental.
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