A Personal Injury Case Study
This example of neglect in nursing home care illustrates some important legal issues in these types of personal injury cases. We'll review the incident, liability, injuries, settlement negotiations, and the final case resolution.
Mark and Monica interviewed several rest homes and settled on Peaceful Acres for their 92 year old mother, Joyce. At first they visited her daily and observed the care she was receiving, however after about 2 months their visits became less frequent as they began to grow more comfortable with leaving her unattended.
Finally, they decided to make a long over-due trip out of the country to visit their sister for two weeks. During that time, Joyce's caregivers fed her only twice a day instead of three times as scheduled and failed to raise bed rails causing Joyce to fall from her bed and break her hip. Once she broke her hip, she was not mobile, however they failed to move Joyce causing her to get painful bed sores.
In this situation, both Peaceful Acres and their employees were liable for negligence and breach of contract. Mark and Monica hired them to provide certain services to their mother and signed a contract requesting that those services be performed - namely, three meals a day and use of bed rails due to previous falls. When the facility and their employees failed to provide these services, they breached their contract with Mark and Monica.
In addition, they owed a duty to Joyce to both feed her and provide bed rails. When they failed to do so, Joyce fell from her bed and broke her hip. Breaking her hip caused her to be less mobile and required her to remain in bed for extended periods of time. When they did not regularly mobilize her, she developed bed sores which were the direct result of their neglect in nursing home care.
The facility is directly liable for negligence, but so are the employees that they hired under the theory of negligent supervision, negligent hiring and respondeat superior which makes employers vicariously liable for the torts of their employees.
Joyce was malnourished and broke her hip, a painful and debilitating condition. She also had to endure painful bed sores, all of which were directly caused by the negligence of Peaceful Acres and their employees.
Even though Joyce was perhaps too old to endure such a surgery, she was left with few options and underwent the procedure incurring $48,000 in medical bills. The bed sores eventually healed with appropriate treatment and antibiotics to fight infection.
Peaceful Acres was required to maintain a $2 million policy in place for injuries that occurred on the premises. Joyce's family hired a private investigator who discovered that Peaceful Acres had 15 complaints filed against it in one year alone.
Joyce's family submitted a claim for $250,000 for her pain and suffering, surgery expenses and the care Joyce needed to rehabilitate once her surgery was complete. The demand also took into account the quality of life Joyce experienced (since hip surgery to a fragile and elderly women is so dangerous and due to the fact that she would never completely heal).
Joyce's family settled with Peaceful Acres and it's employees for the sum of $210,000 and Joyce died 2 months later. The settlement was made payable to Joyce's estate and any distributions from there were handled by her probate attorney since Joyce died without a will.
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