Articles Posted in Verdicts and Settlements

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In a previous blog post, we discussed a 2011 jury verdict that awarded approximately $92 million to the family of a patient who suffered abuse during a 3 week term at a West Virginia nursing home called Heartland Nursing Home, which is owned by a corporation called Manor Care. A relatively small amount of the jury award accounted for ordinary negligence in the nursing home’s actual poor medical care and negligence in failing to adequately feed and hydrate the patient. A whopping $80 million of that award accounted for punitive damages. An obstacle to enforcement of the jury award was found in West Virginia’s professional liability laws that limit non-economic damages (i.e. punitive damages, as opposed to more easily quantifiable medical costs), to $500,000, which was obviously well below the award given by the jury. When we last discussed this case, it had crept its way to the state Supreme Court to determine the issue of whether or not the verdict was appropriate under the half million dollar cap for professional liability. To date that question has not yet been answered while other in-state nursing home negligence claims lay dormant awaiting a ruling before proceeding to their own jury awards.
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The line between the type of care provided at a nursing home and the care provided at a hospital is sometimes not easy to distinguish. The traditional long-term care unit is a “skilled nursing” facility, meaning that more medical care is provided than at mere assisted living facility but less skilled care than at an actual hospital. As a result, nursing home abuse or neglect lawsuits can involve general caregiving lapses (like allowing a senior to fall) or actual medical errors (like not providing certain treatment in a timely fashion).

Importantly, even lawsuits against hospitals can take both forms, either problems with the medical treatment itself or with basic caregiving and monitoring of patients. For example, our team of neglect lawyers recently settled a case on behalf of a client against Rush Medical Center following failure to monitor a patient after a CT scan was performed

Chicago Malpractice Lawsuit

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Recently our team of Chicago nursing home neglect attorneys settled another lawsuit for a local family after her death stemming from pressure sore complications. For those who follow this blog, it does not take long to identify how common pressure sore development is in nursing home lawsuits. Considering that many seniors at these homes have mobility problems and rely on caregiving for movement, nutrition, and hydration, failure to provide adequate support quite frequently causes bed sores. Constant pressure on bony prominences without movement, poor nutrition, and inadequate hydration all combine to create these sores.

Illinois Nursing Home Neglect

The resident in our latest settlement began her ordeal when she entered a Chicago hospital following a stroke. After the immediate critical care was provided–which lasted about 2 weeks–she was transferred to the defendant-facility for rehabilitation. This is common procedure, as many local residents end up in nursing homes only for what is supposed to be temporary recovery. Sadly, for many of them the stays become permanent.

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Bed sores are “the” prototypical nursing home injury caused by neglect. Also called pressure ulcers or decubitus ulcers, these sores pop up on far too many residents after they enter a nursing home. The consequences of the injury are severe, and on many occasions they contribute to an elderly resident’s death. Yet, no matter how well-known the risks and how extensive the prevention options, time and again nursing home caregivers fails to act properly to prevent and treat these sores.

Because of our decades of experience on nursing home neglect cases, we have a team of Chicago pressure sore attorneys who are very familiar with the injury, how it develops, and how it could have been prevented. We are proud to work with many families whose loved ones have suffered serious harm (or died) as a result of caregivers poor actions related to bed sores.

Illinois Pressure Sore Lawsuit

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Our attorneys are proud to work with residents in Chicago and throughout Illinois after poor nursing home care leads to injury. In most cases the process is initiated by the family of the resident. Sadly, families often only learn of problematic care after an incident which causes harm–a nursing home fall, the development of pressure sores, an attack by another resident, or similar accident. When that happens the legal system usually allows the family to recover compensation for the harm irrespective of possible state and federal sanctions for any care violations.

When helping families with these matters, the final resolution in our cases is often a settlement. These are agreements between the parties to resolve the matter without the need to have the issue decided by a judge or jury. Settlements are an efficient way to resolve disputes, ensure fairness, and provide incentive to ensure proper care 100% of the time.

New Illinois Nursing Home Settlement

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The vast majority of community members would prefer to “age in place” instead of moving into a long-term care facility or nursing home. Living in one’s own home comes with clear benefits regarding individual comfort, freedom, and familiarity. However, there are obviously times when living at home is impossible and skilled nursing care is a necessity. The line between when the close care is mandatory and when it is not can sometimes be tricky to delineate. Many families have likely battled with one another over these issues. Does a loved one need to move into a different living environment?

Fortunately, advances in medicine and technology have made great strides in allowing more care than ever before to be received at home, without the need to move into a skilled nursing facility or a hospital. This often means that more elderly and individuals with disabilities than ever before might be able to live longer in their own homes. However, there is one complication to this extended at-home care: how is it getting paid for?

A few families have significant means and might be able to provide all the necessary care out of pocket. But the reality is that many families rely on Medicare and Medicaid support for these long-term caregiving issues. That means that specific rules created by these programs regarding what will be covered and when have very real implicatons on the lives of the hundreds of thousands of families in this situation. At times, advocates for seniors and those with disabiltiies are forced to engage in legal battles with these government entities if they feel that rules are not applied correctly or fairly to the detriment of community members.

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Today our Chicago nursing home negligence lawyers Michael F. Bonamarte, IV and Margaret P. Battersby helped a family obtain fairness when the judge approved and ordered a $500,000 nursing home negligence settlement. Our client had suffered a stroke and was hospitalized for a brief period of time. After hospitalization, she was admitted to the nursing home for rehabilitation. After fourteen days of rehabilitation, she returned home.

When our client was admitted to the ManorCare at Palos Heights East, she had a Stage I pressure ulcer. Pressure ulcers are injuries to the skin and tissue that are caused by prolonged pressure on the body. Pressure ulcers are categorized into four different stages, with Stage I indicating an area of redness and Stage IV indicating damage to the muscle and bone.

Although the nursing home knew that our client was at risk for pressure ulcers, they did not develop a plan of care for her pressure ulcer until the eleventh day of her fourteen day stay. The nursing home did not treat her condition with pressure reliving techniques such as repositioning, turning, or a pressure reduction mattress. Instead, the nursing home allowed our client’s Stage I pressure ulcer to progress into a Stage IV pressure ulcer. As her pressure ulcer worsened, her skin broke and exposed the wound to contaminants. Unfortunately for our client the nursing home neglected to protect the wound, causing the wound to become infected and necrotic.

Suspecting that the nursing home neglected our client, her family called the Illinois Department of Public Health (IDPH). IDPH investigated ManorCare at Palos Heights and found that the nursing home failed to provide appropriate care and treatment of our client’s pressure ulcer. Furthermore, the IDPH cited the nursing home for failing to provide our client timely medical treatment.

As a result of the nursing home’s neglect, our client’s pressure ulcer was never able to heal. She suffered from the painful pressure ulcer until her death about ten months after she left the nursing home. Although the pressure ulcer lawsuit settlement can never make-up for our client’s family’s loss, it will help to cover the extensive financial burden of medical and funeral expenses.
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The Chicago Tribune reported this week on a new agreement that may have long-lasting implications for some developmentally disabled Illinoisans working to move out of nursing homes.

The agreement was reached between state officials and disability rights activists who sought changes in the way certain disabled nursing home members were treated. The group filed a class action lawsuit against the state in 2005 claiming that the state care of these individuals was lacking. The basis of the charge was the then inability of residents to live in an integrated living environment. The claim was rooted in the American with Disabilities Act and its rejection of undue segregation.

An agreement was recently reached between the parties in that original suit. If approved by a judge, the decree will allow much greater flexibility of living conditions for developmentally disabled residents. According to the agreement, all 6,000 residents of these special facilities are able to move out of the nursing home and into a small group home.

The agreement remains flexible in that only those individuals who chose to leave the larger facilities are able-instead of forcing all in the group to move to smaller group homes.
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Published on: reported last week on the end of a nursing home trial involving a resident killed by negligent care. The jury ultimately awarded the family of a former resident over $600,000 for the events surrounding his death.

The lawsuit was filed by a family against the Retama Manor Nursing Center. The nursing home victim died in 2007 after being treated for bedsores (pressure ulcers) that had gone untreated by the nursing home staff. Bedsores are skin lesions caused by constant pressure on bony areas of the body-these damaging ulcers are almost always preventable when care is consistent and proper. However, when nursing home residents are not moved frequently and have poor nutrition and hydration, the sores are quicker to develop.

Even more, the family discovered that the employees of the nursing home falsified medical records to make it seem as if their family member had been checked on more than he actually was. It was also claimed that the victim was suffering from malnutrition and dehydration while supposedly being cared for by nursing home staff members. All of the negligent care was due in large part to the understaffing at the facility, caused by the owner’s drive for maximized profits.

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My SA News reported last week on the end of a nursing home trial following claims of negligent conduct by the facility staff. After deliberating for a day following the trial, a jury last Wednesday found nursing home employees at fault for severe bedsores that a resident developed which contributed to his death.

The victim was a resident of the Retama Manor for six years. The facility was purposefully understaffed in an effort to maximize profits, often meaning that a single nurse was responsible for up to 60 residents. That negligence allowed patients to sit without care for extended periods of time-the perfect conditions for dangerous bedsores to affect patients.

The victim in this case was eventually brought to a local emergency room with two bedsores that had rotted to the bone.