April 22, 2015

Nursing Staff Fails to Notify Doctor of Severe Symptoms

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by Levin & Perconti

When it comes to vulnerable individuals, particularly the elderly or infirmed, pneumonia presents not just an illness, but a condition that could lead to death if left unattended by doctors. In western Minnesota, an elderly nursing home resident was hospitalized after he was found to have numerous open sores on his body, very dry skin, and exhibited symptoms of malnourishment and dehydration. Prior to being rushed to the hospital, the nursing home staff gave him extra oxygen as well as cough syrup to help with his breathing problems as well as his changing body temperature. They added Tylenol to the mix as well, and used a cold cloth to try to control his temperature. When he got to the hospital, he was not responsive. Hospital staff diagnosed the pneumonia there, and noticed that he had very little food or liquid, in addition to the clear sores and dryness on his skin. Sadly, within three days he had succumbed to the pneumonia.

Staff Never Notified the Doctor

There is a particularly disturbing aspect of this case that will undoubtedly put this nursing home in a bigger spotlight, and should be of tremendous concern to nursing home consumers and their families. While clearly there must have been questions as to the chosen methods to treat the patient – Tylenol, cough syrup, and oxygen – for pneumonia symptoms, the astounding discovery was that nursing home staff allegedly failed to even once consult a doctor about the patient’s symptoms that affected his body temperature and breathing abilities.

They merely tried to treat the patient themselves until a more heightened temperature and worse breathing finally prompted them to do something else and send him to the hospital. However, too much damage was possibly done, and he eventually passed away. To add to this sad story, the victim’s family was not notified of this man’s bad condition, either, until the night before he was hospitalized when they were told he had a cold and high temperature.

History of Documented or Alleged Negligence

According to newspaper reports, the owner of this particular nursing home operates a total of 26 facilities in Minnesota alone, and nearly 300 across the country. This one patient is one of others who have problems as a result of alleged negligence at other facilities owned by this particular owner. As is typically the case when incidents of abuse or negligence occurs and a facility is put on warning or subject to sanctions, this facility reportedly submitted a plan to make fixes and re-train staff with regard to when to notify a doctor of problems. Notably, the victim’s doctor was reported as having said he expects to be notified of a “patient’s failing condition” days prior to resorting to hospitalization.

Scrutinize Nursing Homes Carefully

This particular facility’s apparent history of negligence and consequent citations makes it clear the importance of consumers researching facilities as thoroughly as possible through state health or aging departments as well as through the federal government’s Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services, which publishes ratings on its Nursing Home Compare website. The alleged negligence in this Minnesota case is horrendous, as the patient is said to have not received water or food, did not have adequate oxygen, and was left with open sores which can initially develop due to being in the same position for prolonged periods, a failure to change bedding, and/or failure to adequate bathe a patient and can only get worse without cleaning and proper treatment and dressing. Staffers seemingly lacked the training to know best when to consult a doctor when a patient had deteriorating circumstances. Properly trained and educated nursing home staff is crucial to the proper care of residents.

See Related Blog Posts:

Selecting the Best Nursing Home for Your Needs

Investment Firm Takes Over Family-Run Nursing Home

April 20, 2015

Daughter of Nursing Resident Killed by Overdose Calls for Independent Investigation

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by Levin & Perconti

As we have discussed in multiple posts, and as has been followed in the news in recent weeks, a 98-year old resident of a nursing home in South Holland, Illinois, died in a mysterious incident in early February 2015. At first it was unclear what had happened, and initially news outlets reported that the victim was one of six residents who experienced abnormal blood pressures and respiratory issues.

However, the other five residents initially survived those ailments, while the 98-year old resident passed away (the causes of their problems were as yet deemed unknown; by early March, two of the other victims – aged 88 and 98, had passed away, though any connection to this initial incident is unclear). Fire officials ruled out any gas or carbon monoxide poisoning. Authorities opened investigations into the matter, including conducting a toxicology test. A nurse at the facility was suspended after these latter deaths.

Continue reading "Daughter of Nursing Resident Killed by Overdose Calls for Independent Investigation" »

April 15, 2015

As Elderly Population Grows, Long-Term Insurance Scales Down

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by Levin & Perconti

We have written before about how the elderly population will continue to grow in the years to come, as the members of the enormous baby boomer population enter their golden years. As they grow older, the need for various levels of third-party care will be necessary or at least preferred to keep them as healthy as possible and in some cases allow them to lead relatively independent lives. As this segment of the population grows, the costs of caring for so many will increase, possibly putting a strain on finances and the abilities of insurance companies to adequately cover care for their policyholders.

Life Spans & Insurance

In recent decades, in addition to health insurance, other long-term insurance policies such as life insurance were considered essential parts of planning ahead for the eventual need for care in later years. In recent news, however, this fact-of-life type of insurance is on the cusp of becoming much less affordable, and thus much less available to the growing crop of elderly Americans. The expectations about life spans of policyholders and how much it would cost to care for them influenced policy provisions and premium rates, yet this sector has apparently hit a breaking point because those past assumptions have not matched the current reality as costs increase for an aging but still living part of the population.

Continue reading "As Elderly Population Grows, Long-Term Insurance Scales Down" »

April 2, 2015

West Virginia Judge Will Not Recuse in Nursing Home Case

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by Levin & Perconti

We previously posted about a fascinating situation in the West Virginia judicial system involving an apparent conflict of interest by a judge on the state’s highest bench, and a nursing home case. The Chief Justice of the West Virginia Supreme Court, the state’s highest court, was called upon to recuse herself from a case before the court that found against a nursing home at the trial level and resulted in a $90 million award to the family of an elderly nursing home resident that passed away after nearly three weeks at the facility.

There was conflict over whether the resident’s dementia led to her ultimate death, or if it was dehydration from a possible neglect by nursing home staffers that led to her death. The high court upheld the ruling against the Heartland Nursing Home, also refusing to throw out punitive damages, and modifying the damages award to reduce it to about $48 million. The Chief Justice wrote the majority opinion rendering the decision in the plaintiff’s favor. The case went up on appeal in part on the argument that state law capped certain medical malpractice damages. The controversy over the Chief Justice’s involvement in that case centered on over $30,000 in campaign contributions she received for her re-election campaign and that was coincidentally arranged for by the attorney of the plaintiff in the Heartland case, who himself reportedly made a contribution of $1,000. This attorney also bought a Learjet plane for $1 million from the Chief Justice’s husband.

Continue reading "West Virginia Judge Will Not Recuse in Nursing Home Case" »

March 2, 2015

Resident’s Restraint and Abuse Raises Important Nursing Home Safety Issues

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by Levin & Perconti

In Scranton, Lackawanna County, Pennsylvania, a former nursing home aide will go to trial over accusations that several months ago the staffer, who was a certified nursing assistant, assaulted one of the Gardens of Green Ridge nursing home residents. The allegations include that the young nursing assistant physically restrained the 76-year old female resident by holding the resident’s room door closed to keep her trapped inside the room. In addition to this particular restraint, the nursing home aide has also been accused of physically assaulting the patient by dragging her around by her wrists and arms, which resulted in bruising in those areas as well as on her shoulders.

It has been stated that the nursing home has cameras that have captured the alleged abuse and physical restraint, and that witnesses testified that they heard the resident hit the aide, and that the resident yelled at the aide to not touch her. However, the accused’s defense attorney indicated that the aide was simply following orders from a superior to keep the patient in line because she was agitated. Notably, the patient suffered from dementia. As the trial approaches, the one good piece of news is that the patient has been moved to a different nursing home, and is reportedly doing all right.

Continue reading "Resident’s Restraint and Abuse Raises Important Nursing Home Safety Issues" »

February 23, 2015

Psychiatrist Settles Pleads Guilty and Settles Civil Claims

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by Levin & Perconti

Background

A few months ago, an Illinois psychiatrist was suspended indefinitely from practicing because of his alleged abuse of an antipsychotic drug called clozapine. Dr. Michael J. Reinstein prescribed clozapine to more than half of his patients at nursing homes as well as mental health facilities. Clozapine is used to keep patients sedated when they become irritable or violent – many of them suffer from dementia or other ailments, and antipsychotic drugs such as clozapine are used to hold them down. Such drugs can be considered an unacceptable form of chemical restraint that advocates have fought against in recent years in favor of more humane methods that avoid drug dependency.

Continue reading "Psychiatrist Settles Pleads Guilty and Settles Civil Claims" »

February 2, 2015

Who is Keeping Track of Your Loved One?

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by Levin & Perconti

Many across the country, but especially in the northeast and in Western New York, recall the pre-Thanksgiving deluge of snow that completely buried the greater Buffalo area, and left businesses closed and residents shut in their homes. The snow fall was so deep and the roads so buried and treacherous that it was nearly impossible to get around. Some facilities even had to be evacuated. Even the Buffalo Bills had to escape to Detroit, Michigan, to play its game that weekend that was supposed to be played in Buffalo.

Amidst the madness, a nursing home in the Buffalo area was forced to evacuate its more than 170 residents as well as staff personnel because the snowfall was so heavy that local building and fire officials thought it might actually collapse the building’s roof, which is what already had happened to an adjacent building. This of course could lead to injuries and burying the residents in mounds of snow, so it was a seemingly prudent and responsible decision by the facility’s management to protect its residents.

Continue reading "Who is Keeping Track of Your Loved One?" »

January 9, 2015

Senior Chicago Resident Dies from Building Fire

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by Levin & Perconti

In the course of examining the numerous unfortunate cases of abuse and neglect of patients at nursing homes and long-term care facilities, sometimes other issues, even basic ones, get lost in the shuffle but are very significant when it comes to caring for patients. In addition to meeting adequate standards of care in accordance with government regulations and the ever-evolving patient bills of rights, nursing homes also have a duty to ensure even the most basic safety for its residents irrespective of medical treatment.

This includes making sure that the building that houses the patients is itself safe and up to the proper safety and fire codes; that all fire alarms and sprinkler systems function properly; and that evacuation protocols are designed to ensure residents are removed from the building in the event of fire or other imminent danger. In recent coverage about the deficiencies at Sauk Valley nursing homes, it was reported that in addition to negligence and a lack of care, some of the nursing homes even failed to properly follow building and fire codes.

Continue reading "Senior Chicago Resident Dies from Building Fire" »

June 1, 2014

Prevalence of Credit Card Fraud Against Elderly Population

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by Levin & Perconti

Various news outlets reported recently on a case of financial predatory behavior which required the involvement of law enforcement. At a Utah assisted living facility, a Certified Nurses Assistant was accused of significant financial fraud against an 88 year old resident patient. The woman was accused of stealing two credit cards from the resident, one of which was used 15 times in mid-May 2014. On that one card the nursing assistant racked up charges of $2,963.14. She also used the second stolen credit card about 9 times just prior to use of the first, racking up $576.29 in charges. Police arrested and charged the nursing assistant on a third degree felony count of exploitation of a vulnerable adult, as well as three (3) third degree felony counts for unlawful use of a finance card, as well as a class-A misdemeanor charge of theft.

Police arrested the nursing assistant on evidence from security camera footage that captured her making purchases at local businesses where the two credit cards were used. Police showed this footage to a manager at the nursing home, who positively identified the nursing assistant. When police were able to adequately connect the dots, the jig was up for the allegedly abusive (financially) nursing aide. Her bail was set at $21,943.

Elder Financial Exploitation
This case adds on to the long list where nursing home facility staff members take advantage of their residents. Rather than care for them, they seek to enrich themselves. In Utah, as in many locations, exploitation of a vulnerable adult is a serious crime. In Utah, for example, it is defined as the act of preying on a person who is age 65 years or older, or a person who is 18 years of age or older and is physically or mentally impaired such that they might be unable to protect themselves, take care of their own basic necessities like food, shelter, clothing and healthcare, and are otherwise unable to perform basic tasks of everyday living. Furthermore, it includes an adult that is unable to fully understand the circumstances and implications of an abusive, neglectful or exploitive scenario such that they are unable to remove themselves from the situation. By taking advantage of the resident patient’s situation in which she required care because of her age and inability to take care of herself, the nursing aide grossly violated the law that intends to protect patients like this one.

Such acts are not just restricted to swiping credit cards. They may include stealing cash, or taking control of a resident’s bank account by stealing or coaxing the information out of him or her. When a family puts a loved one in a nursing home or assisted care facility, they entrust the care of that person to professionals who are not just trained in supporting the patient medically, but also entrust that the loved one will not be taken advantage of during their stay. Financial fraud or theft constitutes an egregious violation of a nursing home resident, and cannot be tolerated.

See Other Blog Posts:

New Example of the Importance of Evaluating a Nursing Home in Illinois

Case Study: Theft and Elder Financial Abuse in Nursing Homes

May 31, 2014

Reports of Elder Abuse at a Kansas Nursing Home Involving Several Staff Members

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by Levin & Perconti

We have previously discussed how both federal and state agencies have a hand in regulating nursing homes where those nursing homes at least in part accept federal money, typically through Medicare of Medicaid. Often these regulatory and enforcement duties will overlap, and authorities on the federal and state levels work together through information sharing to weed out abuse and neglect, and bring nursing home facilities under tight scrutiny to ensure they operate in compliance with laws, rules and regulations, and that patient residents receive the proper care and home environment they need and deserve. Another example of the crossover between federal and state authorities occurred in Kansas, where a nursing home was fined for incidents of neglect and abuse of patient residents. This unfortunate case also served as an example of the importance of unannounced surprise inspections of facilities to properly assess them to ensure they operate appropriately even when no one is watching.

Elder Abuse Allegations
In a very saddening turn of events, a nursing home in Andover, Kansas was recently exposed for allegations based on neglect and abuse residents. The Kansas Department for Aging and Disability Services notified the nursing home of the allegations after a department inspector interviewed more than a third of the patient residents there. The inspector conducted these interviews on a surprise visit to the facility, which is typically how agencies conduct reviews of nursing homes (Illinois is no different). This also came after a report had been made to local police about abuse, as the police report spurred the state agency to act on this particular facility.

Continue reading "Reports of Elder Abuse at a Kansas Nursing Home Involving Several Staff Members" »

May 27, 2014

Abuse at Understaffed and Underperforming Nursing Homes

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by Levin & Perconti

Nursing home or long-term care facility negligence or abuse can often amount to a significant award of damages to a plaintiff. Such damages awards will often include nominal damages for the actual liability based on negligence or intentional abuse, as well as punitive damages that can punish the facility and make a statement as to how severe the abuse was against the plaintiff. A recent jury decision in Colorado demonstrates this where a plaintiff and his family were awarded $3.3 million in damages, comprising of $300,000 for the actual negligence, and $3 million in punitive damages against the facility. This case was the second in approximately one year that families suing the facility won an award of damages.

The Case Details
In 2013, the family of an 82 year old patient resident of a Colorado nursing home sued the facility alleging that over the course of his three years there, he suffered from many bed sores, skin tears and abrasions, infections (including from E. Coli as well as a urinary tract infection), and he was dehydrated and malnourished. He also significantly lost weight and at one point lost the ability to use his arms and legs. The complaint alleged that this was a result of the facility staff’s failure to give the level of care that the patient needed, particularly given a medical status that heightened his needs. The plaintiff suffered from mild retardation as well as dementia, among other problems. The staff failures to pay him enough attention and to do the very things they were hired to do to keep the plaintiff comfortable and as healthy as possible under the circumstances. The family also alleged violations of the Colorado Consumer Protection Act by the facility because it advertised itself as a top rate nursing home when it allegedly knew full well that it could not give the proper care and treatment to patients to keep them healthy and well.

Continue reading "Abuse at Understaffed and Underperforming Nursing Homes" »

May 17, 2014

More Claims of Veterans Administration Abuses

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by Levin & Perconti

In the aftermath of the scandal surrounding the Phoenix, Arizona Veterans Affairs Hospital, more reports of horrendous management that has affected the health and well-being of our veterans have emerged in other places. As discussed in a prior post, the Phoenix scandal involved keeping veterans in need of medical help on a secret waiting list as opposed to an official waiting list because of the serious backlog the facility faced in seeing and treating many of the veteran patients. Because the facility could not meet standards for efficient and timely treatment, rather than have it documented, they kept a secret list to track these veterans and then only transferred the patients to an official list when it was clear that they could be seen within a reasonable time from the moment of placing them on the official list.

Most recently, in light of the news about the Phoenix facility, the Chicago Tribune reported that federal auditors investigated allegations at a Veterans Affairs Hospital near Maywood, Illinois in western Cook County that the facility there also kept secret waiting lists to falsely demonstrate that it met VA regulations on timely treatment. Meeting such standards would ensure senior officials could earn bonuses for the hospital’s performance, which are based in part on the speediness of seeing veteran patients. These particular allegations came to light from a social worker, and also filtered through the local union for federal government employees before reaching the media and federal investigators. The investigation is in its nascent stage, as the allegations remain just allegations, and the whistleblower has not yet brought forward documentation to back these claims out of fear that hospital workers could experience retaliation as a result of the disclosures. Hospital leaders have disputed the allegations at the facility that has seen over 54,000 veterans in the last year, stating that any cited evidence cited (although not presented) does not actually consist of separate waiting lists. VA Inspector General investigators may look into it at the behest of U.S. Senator Mark Kirk of Illinois.

Legal Claims
While investigations into the Phoenix scandal are ongoing, and investigations are only just commencing into the allegations of secret wait lists at the Illinois facility, there will soon come the time for the affected veterans and their families to consider legal action for damages. Plaintiffs would invariably bring these lawsuits under the Federal Tort Claims Act.

The Federal Tort Claims Act (FTCA) generally allows private citizens to sue the United States in federal courts for injuries sustained as a result of a tort committed by someone acting on behalf of the federal government or in their capacity as an employee of the federal government. This is not universal coverage as there are certain exceptions, such as for law enforcement activity. However, those veterans who have not received adequate care as a result of the absurdly long wait time, and those families of veterans who died as a result of not receiving the necessary care, may have actionable cases against the Department of Veterans Affairs for damages caused by its employees’ negligent handling of wait lists, or in this case intentional cover up of that improper procedure. Those who were injured should strongly consider their rights to claims. No one should be treated this way, not least of all the brave men and women that served our country with honor and distinction, and have asked little else of us.

See Other Posts:

5 Tips for Detecting Elder Abuse or Neglect in Nursing Home Facilities

Negligent Caregiving at Hospital Results in $6 Million Levin & Perconti Settlement

May 13, 2014

Secret Lists at the VA

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by Levin & Perconti

In recent weeks news broke out of Arizona that a Veterans Affairs Hospital failed to follow up with veterans seeking medical care within a required amount of time, and in many situations ignore veterans who needed an immediate check-up, medication, treatment or other assistance. Many of these veterans suffered worse illnesses and some died as a result of not getting the adequate care they needed. It is awful enough how the VA in general has a backlog on serving our brave veterans, who risk their lives to defend our country and deserve our care and concern when they return home, and for the rest of their lives. It was a recently retired physician from the facility who blew the whistle on this scandal to the Arizona Republic after also attempting to go through Congress as well as the VA’s Office of Inspector General.

What is worse in this current scandal, is how this particular Veterans Affairs Hospital in Phoenix maintained “secret waiting lists” that effectively kept secret that these men and women were awaiting medical care. When the facility could forecast that it would be able to see a veteran patient within a certain time that conformed to VA regulations, it would move that person onto the official waiting list for the first time to make it seem as if his or her wait time was adequate and reasonable. This official list is what is reported to the main agency and any other relevant bodies in Washington, D.C., and the Phoenix facility sought to make things appear as if everything was okay. On top of this, they shredded evidence of the secret lists to cover up the failure to adequately care for veterans.

These veterans waited months on end for the care they not only deserve but to which they are also entitled. According to at least one report, between approximately 1,400 and 1,600 veterans had to wait months for their doctor visit. Many died as a result of not being seen or getting the care they needed, with some reports showing that at least 40 individuals died while waiting for doctor appointments at the Phoenix hospital. Top administrators knew about it and did nothing to correct it. Senior officials at the facility were also left in their positions in spite of congressional knowledge and the agency’s Inspector General investigation.

Adding to the outrage is one recent report based on a review of public records from the VA facility in Phoenix that show its staff earned relatively high salaries bonuses. While not yet reported or corroborated by other outlets, the article details how the hospital apparently spent hundreds of thousands on interior and exterior aesthetics around the facility, and high executive physicians make in the mid-$350,000s with some nursing staff making in the mid-$140,000s.

Veterans Affairs Secretary Eric Shineski has vowed to take action on this problem and will not resign. In the meantime, veterans affected by this issue and their families will likely consider legal action at some point. Such action would appropriately come under the Federal Tort Claims Act, which would grant these victims a private right of action against the federal government – specifically the VA – for their actions that has led to more permanent health problems and even death for veterans. In an era where long-term care facilities and nursing homes have committed egregious negligence and abuse against their patients, it is furthermore disheartening that a facility dedicated to treating veterans has similarly committed such wrongful omissions.

See Other Posts:

5 Tips for Detecting Elder Abuse or Neglect in Nursing Home Facilities

Negligent Caregiving at Hospital Results in $6 Million Levin & Perconti Settlement

May 12, 2014

Making Claims Under the Federal Torts Claims Act

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by Levin & Perconti

In cases of widespread nursing home and long-term care facility abuses and negligence against patient residents, those patients and their families will often have recourse through tort actions for injury under relevant state laws. As previously discussed, there may also be False Claims Act cases to be made where companies operating nursing homes that receive federal dollars through Medicare and Medicaid fail to follow the law, rules or regulations in implementing those funds into their care of the patient residents. Such misuse or fraud of government funds can result in a recovery for the plaintiff and the government. On top of this, patients of a government operated facility, such as a Veterans Affairs hospital, who suffer injury or death as a result of negligence or abuse may bring a claim for damages under the Federal Tort Claims Act (FTCA).

The FTCA is the prime law under which private individuals can sue the government for injuries sustained as a result of the government’s actions or inactions, or those of employees or other individuals working on behalf of the government, such as a VA hospital administrator or doctor. In general, those individuals will not be subject to liability; only the government itself will. In light of the recent reports on the secret waiting lists at the Phoenix VA facility that led to further injury to veterans as well as the deaths of at least 40 veterans, those veterans and their families may very well have the right to sue for damages under the FTCA.

In order to demonstrate liability and a claim for damages under the FTCA, a helpful summary of the law outlines the four elements that must be demonstrated. These generally conform to the requirements in all tort law to show a tort occurred:

(1) Injury or property damage by a federal government employee;
(2) Federal government employee at the time performed his or her official duties;
(3) Federal government employee was negligent or wrongful in his or her acts;
(4) The negligent/wrongful act caused the injury or damage

Any veteran who suffers damages as a result of abuse or inadequate care at a government operated facility (a VA hospital, military hospital on or off base, or a federally supported clinic) and who is not on active military duty is eligible to file a claim. It is notable that under Supreme Court precedent, active duty military members are not allowed to make an FTCA claim since injuries are presumed to be a part of their service, although some in Congress has wanted to give active military access to remedies under the law. This also bars claims by veterans for injuries resulting from negligence committed during their active duty, but which were not symptomatic or apparent until after discharge or retirement from service. Family members of active military are permitted to sue under the FTCA for injuries received from treatment at a government-sponsored hospital, clinic or facility. With regard to government funded clinics, victims of negligence may also have a claim under the FTCA even if the treating physician or nurse were not government employees, because by accepting federal money, the clinic’s employees are unofficially considered government employees for the purposes of the FTCA.

Just as a resident patient of a nursing home can bring claims for injury due to negligence, so can patients at government-operated facilities or government-funded clinics. Such claims are more than likely to arise in the recent Veterans Affairs scandal. In filing this claim, it is important to understand what form you must use, where to file, as well as implications for how such recovery may affect any disability claims you make.

See Other Posts:

5 Tips for Detecting Elder Abuse or Neglect in Nursing Home Facilities

Negligent Caregiving at Hospital Results in $6 Million Levin & Perconti Settlement

March 24, 2014

Blue Line Trail Derailment at O’Hare - Dozens Injured

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by Levin & Perconti

One of the top stories across the country today involves the shocking train derailment at Chicago’s O’Hare airport. The photos of the event show what must have been a terrifying experience for all those on the train and in the area at the time. The affected machine looks to have virtually careened off the track and partially up an escalator leading to the airport terminal from underground.

Making matters worse, early reports indicated that just shy of three dozens people were hurt in various forms. Considering that the event just struck, the extent of the injuries remain unclear, but our thoughts are obviously with those harmed and their families.

The Blue Line Accident Details
Riding on the L is a routine, daily event for many Chicagoans. From traveling to work downtown to heading up north to catch a flight at O’Hare. But most of us take for granted the risks that are ever-present when traveling. Train accidents are not as uncommon as you might think, something that the passengers on the ill-fated Blue Line train learned harshly.

Investigations are still underway to determine exactly what went wrong. local authorities are still learning about the details, and the National Transportation Safety Board was informed.

Various possibilities exist, including improper signaling and/or equipment failures. In addition, there is a good chance that some sort of human error was involved, and a Chicago Transportation Authority Spokesperson admitted that speeding may have been involved. The CTA official explained, “It appears as though the train would have been going faster than a train normally birthing at this station would be. Normally a train pulls in at just a couple miles an hour and pulls into the state. Obviously this train did not stop so speed could be a factor here.”

Further inquiry revealed that driver exhaustion may have played a role. A union representative confirmed that the driver was “extremely tired” at the time of the accidents. That suggests that she may have falling asleep, at least momentarily

Legal Liability for Chicago Train Derailment?
It is impossible to predict how this matter will resolve itself in the upcoming weeks and months. However, as most appreciate, the civil law allows those hurt by the negligence of others to recover for their losses. Regardless of the specifics of this particular accidents, it is likely that some form of negligence contributing in whole or part to the derailment. That is obviously true if, for example, the driver fell asleep at the controls. But that is also true if equipment was not maintained properly and malfunctioned.

Needless to say, all those affected by this incident should seek out experienced legal help as soon as feasible. The train injury attorneys at Levin & Perconti are here to help. Feel free to send us a message today to learn more.

March 18, 2014

Horrific Accusations of Illinois Nursing Home Abuse Purposefully Videotaped

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by Levin & Perconti

The abuse, neglect, and exploitation of seniors throughout Illinois occurs far more than most residents believe. The reason for the disconnect between perception and reality is likely rooted in the fact that most people cannot fathom ever mistreating a senior. It is natural to imagine that others feel the same way and thus assume that the total instances of mistreatment must be small.

Sadly, study after study shows this not to be the case. As many Chicago nursing homes residents and their families are forced to learn first-hand, much mistreatment is based on neglect. This refers to cut corners and carelessness that place senior residents at higher risk of suffering serious injury.

But neglect is not the whole story. More than you might imagine, seniors are intentionally abused by those who are supposed to be providing care. This outright abuse is a particularly horrific stain on any facility where it occurs. It is incumbent upon all of us to ensure full accountability following this mistreatment.

Teen Employees Videotape Physical Abuse
Chicagoland residents received a vivid reminder of the depths to which some caregivers will go following reports of a story out of St. Charles. As discussed late last week by CBS Local, two teenagers from South Elgin were recently arrested after information surfaced about their abuse at the Rosewood Care Center.

Initial reports were minimal. However, it is now believed that the two teens were employees at the facility. At some point while working, the teen girls--both 18 years old--apparently began physically abusing a 98-year old senior resident. It is unclear what form the abuse took. Compounding the sad situation, the girls apparently videotaped the intentional abuse on their cellphones.

Fortunately, information about the attack somehow became known to others at the facility, and authorities were eventually brought in to investigate. Following that investigation the two suspects were arrested by local police and charged with at least two criminal counts: aggravated battery of a person over sixty years old and unlawful videotaping. Under the criminal code, the penalties for various crimes can be enhanced based on ‘aggravating” factors--like victims being seniors.

It is unclear if any other residents of the facility were affected in the same way. However, those capable of intentionally abusing one individual may be likely to do the same to others. That is why authorities are urging anyone with information about similar mistreatment contact them. You can reach the St. Charles Polce Department at 630-377-4435. Alternatively, an anonymous tip line is available at 866-378-4267.

The Importance of Proper Nursing Home Hiring
This tragic case is a clear example of the critical role that nursing home hiring plays in proper caregiving. It is simply inexcusable for facility owners and operators to hire individuals to work with residents who are capable of such outright abuse and mistreatment. Even in case of intentional conduct--as this appears to be--the problem could usually have been avoided had proper safeguards been in place for staff hiring. Care workers on the front lines working with residents are those best positioned to prevent mistreatment, and, at the same time, those with the best opportunity to commit abuse or allow neglect.

See Other Blog Posts:

Illinois Nursing home Negligence Case Filed As a Result of Leg Amputation

Five Tips for Detecting Elder Abuse or Neglect in Nursing Home Facilities

March 16, 2014

Don’t Buy the “Illinois is Bad for Business” Lines from Political Candidates

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by Levin & Perconti

We recently discussed the questionable claims made by GOP Gubernatorial candidate Bruce Rauner, and the need for local residents to be prudent about their choices this election cycle.

Many of the claims made by those seeking office in the state threaten the legal rights of Illinois citizens. It is critical to look past the general rhetoric and understand the risks of pursuing policies advocated by certain candidates.

For example, a common general refrain from some, including many Republican candidates for Governor, is that changes need to be made to “protect businesses.” Unfortunately, while innocuous sounding at first impression, the underlying issues referenced often relate to the civil justice system. Specifically, those seeking more “protection” for businesses usually try to make it far more difficult, if not impossible, for residents hurt by business misconduct to recover for their losses.

Protecting and promoting business in Illinois does not require lowering standards of accountability and allowing companies to get away with harming Illinois residents.

Ensure Protection for Injured Illinoisans
Throughout the primary election season--and undoubtedly during the upcoming general election season--we will hear some claim that our state is not “business friendly.” But what indicators are used to make that claim?

The truth is that Illinois is actually a great place for businesses based on many indicators. The claims made by those to the contrary are usually nothing more than bland talking points used to push an ancillary policy agenda.

For example, Illinois is 4th in the entire nation with 32 Fortune 500 companies headquartered in the state. Altogether, the state has the 5th largest “gross output” in the entire country, without $670.7 billion annual gross.

We have built up particular attractiveness as a business location in certain niches. For example, we lead the nation in the manufacturing of hardware and construction machinery. In addition, we are a major location for corporations working with electrical equipment, plastics and rubber, metals, and chemicals.

Additionally, Chicago specifically was recently touted by Site Selection magazine as the number one metro area for new corporate facilities and expansion of corporate facilities. In other words, not only is the state doing well, in some ways we are thriving. Of course that is not to say that everything is perfect in the business world or certain policy change might be appropriate. But the claims about the need to sacrifice safety standards and accountability in a desperate attempt to keep businesses here are drastically misleading.

When you step into the booth to vote in the primary election, be sure to keep these issues in mind. Our policymakers must never sacrifice the well-being of the majority of Illinois residents in order to appease already wealthy and powerful corporations. Any candidate who suggests otherwise should not garner your support.

See Other Blog Posts:

5 Tips for Detecting Elder Abuse or Neglect in Nursing Home Facilities

$700,000 Settlement After Resident Dies from Bed Sores and Dehydration at West Suburban Cook County Nursing Home

February 7, 2014

Chicagoland Nursing Home Medication Errors Leading to Hospitalizations and Deaths

LinkedIn
by Levin & Perconti

NBC 5 News has revealed that medication errors in nursing homes in the Chicagoland area have led to hospitalizations and even deaths. The NBC 5 News team found in public records that state health inspectors cited 384 nursing home errors since 2011.

One woman, Tanya Karney-Brown, discussed her brother, Joseph, with NBC 5 News. In 2005, Mr. Karney-Brown placed her brother into The Renaissance Park South nursing facility in Roseland. This was in response to his heart attack and stroke. Ms. Karney-Brown inspected the facility, thought it was fine, and placed her brother in The Renaissance Park South location shortly thereafter.

A few years later, Joseph was diagnosed with gastrointestinal cancer, and was prescribed Gleevac. Ms. Karney-Brown said he initially responded well to the medicine.

But after some time his response to the medicine changed and his condition worsened. That is when Ms. Karney-Brown and her family discovered that The Renaissance Park South nursing facility had stopped administering Gleevac to Joseph. In fact, they failed to administer the medicine for a year, and they also did not take him to the oncologist for follow-up visits. As a result, Joseph’s cancer spread, and he passed away in 2010.

Ms. Karney-Brown filed a lawsuit and eventually settled with The Renaissance Park South nursing facility.

These incidents, like the death of Ms. Karney-Brown’s brother, are often the result of negligence, which means that the family has the option of seeking legal recourse for injury, health problems, or the death of a loved one who has been under supervision at a nursing home and suffered from an error in medication treatment.

Ms. Karney offered advice on how to try and prevent something like this happening to someone else’s loved one in a nursing facility. She said it is important to visit a nursing facility frequently and to show up on a whim. In addition, it is always a good idea to keep a list of the medications that a loved one is taking, the doctors they see, and what sort of medical visits they are making and why - staying on top of the game is crucial.

"If something feels off, I think you should ask the question and find out right away," Karney-Brown said to NBC 5 News. "Don't just take yes for an answer or no for an answer."

While it is important to stay committed to a family member’s medication and medical needs, it is also the responsibility of the nursing home facility and that entity’s employees to do their due diligence. After all, that is a significant if not main part of their job, i.e., overseeing the distribution of medications to residents in a nursing home facilitiy. If you think that your loved one has been overmedicated, speak up about it, and seek legal counsel to ensure that your voice, as well as your loved one’s, is heard. If your loved one is still alive, this becomes a matter of life and death. Negligence is a serious, life-threatening matter, especially when it comes to the care of people in nursing home facilities. That is precisely why waiting to address the issue can be fatal.

Related Links:

“Overmedicating Elderly Patients in Nursing Home Facilities”

February 3, 2014

Elderly Drivers and Home Health Care Professionals

LinkedIn
by Levin & Perconti

With the large number of elderly people in the United States, chances are, you have probably read a story or two - most likely more - about a tragic car wreck involving an older person behind the wheel of a car. Oftentimes, these stories are not only about severe injuries but fatalities. The risk of fatality for a person over 80 increases dramatically.

The Center for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) notes, “the risk of being injured or killed in a motor vehicle crash increases as you age. An average of 500 older adults are injured every day in crashes.” In fact, in 2008 over 5,500 were killed in motor vehicle crashes. As the population continues to age, these statistics will only worsen, and the fatalities of older Americans will - sadly - increase. Most elderly people who drive live at home and are not yet in health care facilities.

That said, even if these elderly drivers are at home, if they health care professionals in the home, those individuals, who oversee their care, are fully responsible for their health and well-being. That means they must ensure that the senior is able to operate a car safely. If this is not done appropriately, negligence occurs if this duty is not covered. It is also considered a form of elderly neglect, as the health care professional is responsible for determining whether or not the senior’s behavior is such that enables him or her to drive a vehicle.

The CDC also offers guidelines for senior citizens to stay safe on the roads. Those are the following:

1) Stick to a regular exercise schedule
2) Talk to your doctor and pharmacist about the medications you have been prescribed - make sure to ask about the possibility of these medications having negative side-effects on your ability to operate and drive a vehicle
3) Try to avoid bad weather and also drive during the day and not at nighttime
4) Try to remain focused on the road - avoid distractions such as listening to the radio, talking on the telephone, eating food, or texting
5) Carefully plan your route on trips to places that are unfamiliar to you
6) Get your eyes checked on a regular basis
7) If you are feeling nervous about the trip, ask a friend or family member to drive you to your destination or opt for public transportation

While those are the things an individual can tend to in order to be safer on the road, a health care professional’s job requires them to take the extra step to make sure that the person under their care is - as already mentioned - fully competent and able to drive. Unfortunately, there are too many instances in which this is not the case, and the results are absolutely devastating. When tragedy does strike, that is when a bereaved family needs superb counsel to seek damages for their loss. Such tragedy is oftentimes the result of severe and even willful negligence, something a grieving family should not ignore.

Related Links:

Aging Behind the Wheel

December 9, 2013

Aging Behind the Wheel

LinkedIn
by Levin & Perconti

It’s an all-too familiar story. In April 2013, police cited an elderly Illinois driver for causing an accident when he failed to yield to oncoming traffic at an intersection near Monmouth. When the 78-year-old man turned onto U.S. Route 34/67 that afternoon, a second driver struck his car. The drivers sustained non-life-threatening injuries. But the elderly man’s wife, who was not wearing a seatbelt, was thrown from the car and killed.

According to the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration, in the past decade the number of older drivers, defined as aged 65 and older, has increased from 21 percent to 35 percent. The NHTSA reports a similar spike in car crashes involving older drivers. Between 2011 and 2012, the number of older people injured in car accidents increased by 16 percent. The number of fatalities rose by 3 percent. Fatal crash rates increase per mile traveled starting at age 75, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. That fatality rate then increases significantly after age 80.

The Obama administration has made the protection of the country’s elderly population a national priority. In recognition of the growing number of older drivers and subsequent car accidents, the NHTSA recently announced a five-year plan designed to improve safety for elderly drivers and passengers. The plan will focus on vehicle safety, data collection and driver behavior, which will involve educating the public about functional changes such as vision and cognition that put elderly drivers at risk behind the wheel. For more information, see the newly unveiled Older Driver Highway Safety Program Guidelines issued by the NHTSA.

The CDC recommends that older drivers exercise regularly, undergo annual eye exams, and ask their doctor or pharmacist to review medications for side effects and interactions that could impair their ability to drive. Additionally, the CDC suggests that older adults limit driving to daylight hours and in good weather, and that they consider using public transit or other alternative means of transportation. For more information, visit www.cdc.gov.

At-Home Caregiver Responsibilities
Health care professionals, including home health caregivers, have a duty to evaluate seniors for the functional changes that affect their ability to operate a car. Illinois law requires that at-home caregivers provide adequate care, which includes monitoring the senior’s behavior. Elder neglect can arise when someone who is aware of a senior’s functional disabilities allows that senior to drive, fails to prevent that senior from getting behind the wheel, or fails to notify a family member of that senior’s inability to safely operate a car.

Illinois law protects against elderly abuse and neglect, no matter the setting. Negligence occurs when it is shown that a duty exists, that the duty has been breached, that the breach of duty directly or proximately caused damages, and that there were damages. For help with any of these issues, contact our legal team today.