February 22, 2013

Fireworks Between Attorneys in Nursing Home Abuse Trial

by Levin & Perconti

Far too many nursing home owners and operators are focused almost exclusively on maximizing their own bottom line each month. That often means making choices about staffing, safety changes to the facility, commitment to staff training, the buying of supplies, and many other decisions where the best interests of the residents conflict with more profit for owners and operators. Obviously, a proper balance must be struck with reasonable levels of care provided to seniors at all times. When that profit motive is out of balance and harm results to a senior, then elder neglect has occurred and a civil lawsuit might be appropriate.

Yet, even when dealing with a lawsuit, some facilities take the same approach--willing to do anything to save themselves from having to pay out. In nursing home neglect lawsuits (and possible trials), that often means aggressive legal defenses that seem to throw everything but the kitchen sink at the plaintiffs in order to get the suit dismissed or encourage a settlement far below was is fair.

Judge Rejects Mistrial Argument in Nursing Home Case
For example, as reported in a recent Sacramento Bee story, one nursing home neglect case is now at trial. The plaintiffs in the case allege that poor care was provided to a woman, leading to the development of pressure sores, severe weight loss, and a significant fall that caused injury. The senior died shortly after she left the facility at the age of 82, and her three children filed suit shortly after.

Recently, the attorneys for the defendant asked the judge to declare a mistrial. They argued that the lawyers for the plaintiff “improperly” contacted current and former employees of the defendant-company and “coerced” their testimony. The judge rejected the call on two separate occasions. In responding to the claims, those representing the plaintiff and the plaintiff’s lawyer explained that the defense actions were “frivolous” and a “desperate measure.”

In dismissing the defendant’s arguments, the judge noted that the two witnesses whom the defense was complaining about were no longer working for the nursing home company. That means that they were not actually represented by the defense lawyers. There are unique rules about when attorneys can contact parties represented by a lawyer without the lawyer’s consent. However, the judge determined that those rules did not apply. That is because, the witnesses in question were not on the company payroll.

Experienced Nursing Home Neglect Lawyers
As the courtroom dramatics in this neglect case testify, anything can happen at trial. In their attempt to avoid accountability, virtually any argument under the sun might be raised. That is why it is critical to have the aid of attorneys who are experienced in these matters. In the Chicago area, the elder neglect lawyers at our firm have been helping families on these matters for decades. Please contact us if you think we can help ensure accountability for your loved one who might have suffered neglect at a long-term care facility in Chicago, the suburbs, or throughout Illinois.

See Other Blog Posts:

Importance of Death Certificates

The Dangers of Bed Rails