Visitor Question

Wrongful death suit if elderly parent dies of pneumonia?

Submitted By: Lesley (Morgantown, Pennsylvania)

My mother, 93, has late stage Parkinson’s Disease, and she is currently living in a skilled nursing facility in Wilmington, DE. About a week and a half ago, the facility finally admitted she was “in decline” and eligible for hospice. Around the same time, I was notified of her not eating and drinking. She was to be given IV fluids and nutrients.

The next day, a chest x-ray was done revealing pneumonia. The facility had a major flu epidemic just recently, and they only lifted the quarantine last Thursday. They couldn’t agree fast enough now that she should be on hospice care. This is after months of trying to get the correct referral and their refusal to support hospice services.

Up until a few weeks ago, my mother was still semi-cognitive albeit in some decline from advancing PD, still eating and drinking her milk, etc. Do I have any recourse?

I have asked for her to receive IV antibiotics if she will accept them. I’m not sure she would survive a move to the hospital for treatment, and I would most likely have to take her out of hospice level of care as antibiotic treatment could be considered too aggressive.

It seems too coincidental that the facility should have a flu outbreak and that my mother should then develop pneumonia. Two weeks ago, she was still drinking and eating. What can I do?

Disclaimer: Our response is not formal legal advice and does not create an attorney-client relationship. It is generic legal information based on the very limited information provided. Do not rely upon the information in our response, or anywhere else on this site, when deciding the proper course of a legal matter. Always get a personalized case review from a local attorney.

Answer

Dear Lesley,

Based on the facts it is difficult to discern any nursing home wrongdoing. Apparently the nursing home timely effected a quarantine to address the flu epidemic, and there doesn’t seem to be a link between the quarantine and your mother’s decline.

The problem seems to be the nursing home’s apparent delay in effecting a referral to hospice care. To succeed in a negligence action against the nursing home would require three (3) proofs:

  1. The nursing home had a contractual duty to timely effect a transfer your mother to hospice care
  2. By not timely effecting the transfer the nursing breached the terms of the contract
  3. As a direct result of the breach your mother was wrongfully injured

Read the contract your mother, or her legal guardian signed when your mother first entered the nursing home. If, after reading it you believe the contract was breached, or that the nursing home was grossly negligent in the manner in which they handled your mother’s care, then you might consider seeking the advice and counsel of several personal attorneys in your area. When doing so, ask the attorneys if they have experience in nursing home cases.

Most personal injury attorneys will not charge any fees for initial office consultations. Moreover, if you find an attorney to accept your mother’s case, they will likely accept the case on a contingency fee basis . This means you will not have to pay the attorney any legal fees or costs in advance.

In the event the attorney is successful in settling the case, or prevailing in court, then at that time the attorney will take his or her attorney’s fees and reimbursement for the costs of the case such as filing fees (if it becomes necessary to file a lawsuit), copying costs, etc.

In the event the attorney is not successful in settling your case, or winning it in court, you will owe the attorney nothing.

Learn more here: Nursing Home Wrongful Deaths

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

Best of luck with your claim,

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