September 16, 2012

“Reasonableness” & Dementia

by Levin & Perconti

The civil law is premised on the idea that community members need to act reasonably in their interactions with one another. Not all accidents can be prevented--some things are simply true accidents that involve fluke circumstances. But those incidents are the exception. When analyzed deeply, many accidents that cause harm include unreasonable conduct by one, two, or many different parties. Figuring out that unreasonableness and seeking to compensate those hurt is the root of the civil law.

That is true in all settings, including the care of senior citizens.

One misconception, however, relates to gauging what is or is not reasonable. There are not simple rules, because everything hinges on context. For example, take two similar accidents--a fall in the hallway. Both fall-victims are 67 years old, both falls were caused by the shoes that the person was wearing--they were too big and made it difficult for the senior to walk. One fall took place in an emergency room waiting room--the senior went there to get a few stitches for a small cut. The other fall took place in a nursing home hallway.

Both falls involved the same person and the same underlying cause (shoes), and both were in caregiving locations. Is the legal liability the same? No.

That is because those individual caregivers were not in the same position. Emergency room staff members likely had no idea about the senior’s fall risk, because the patient had simply showed up with a non-life threatening medical situation. Conversely, the nursing home staff members presumably knew the senior resident. They may, in fact, have been the ones who selected the shoes.

What would have been “reasonable” conduct on the part of the nursing home staff members to prevent that fall are much different than what would have been “reasonable” conduct by the emergency room workers. The specific context of the fall makes all the difference.

Dementia, Alzheimer’s, & Increased Accident Risks
Another factor that also affects these types of incidents is the caregivers knowledge of the senior’s particular mental vulnerabilities. For example, if a caregiver knows that a senior suffers from dementia, the “reasonableness” calculation changes even more. That is because those with dementia can be hurt in situations that would pose less risk for those will their full mental faculties.

Just last week the Sun Times posted a sad story on the death of an 80-year old elderly woman with dementia. The senior apparently drowned in a pond behind her own home. Details are still emerging as to how the drowning occurred. However, the woman was known to walk the trails in the area. She may have slipped or otherwise became confused, leading to the accident.

The case does not involve care workers, but it illustrates the unique risks faced by those with dementia. When a resident in a nursing home is known to have cognitive conditions like this, it is reasonable for those conditions to be taken into account when the care plan for the resident is crafted. Failure to create or follow that plan may result in legal liability following an accident.

See Our Related Blog Posts:

Illinois Nursing Home Lawsuits Alleges Neglect at VIP Manor

Nursing Home Neglect Leads to Patient Death, Lawsuit Filed

September 9, 2012

Resident Dies After Left in 102 Degree Heat in Wheelchair

by Levin & Perconti

Lawyers, family members, and senior care advocates frequently cite the civil justice system as one of the key ways that long-term care facilities are actually held accountable for their conduct and spurred to make changes to minimize future harm. That point is well illustrated by a recent case related to the tragic death of a wheelchair bound resident and the lack of punishment (or chance of punishment) from state officials.

Nursing Home Wrongful Death
The Republic published an article this week about a 67-year old Tucson man who was living at a rehabilitation and care center. Like many of his fellow nursing home residents, the man had mobility problems. He was confined to a wheelchair and usually required the assistance of staff members at the home to get around properly. Obviously, nursing home staff members understand their role in helping residents in this way who depend on them to move in certain settings.

In this case, the resident was wheeled outside on a particularly hot Arizona day. Reports indicate that it was well over one hundred degrees. Yet, even with the heat (and the resident’s vulnerabilities), the man was allowed to languish outside in his chair without any supervision. In fact, he was left without oversight for at least an hour and fifteen minutes. Is it logical or prudent for a senior resident to be left in one hundred plus degree heat for over an hour without monitoring? Of course not. In fact, nursing home employees admit that even when inside residents are supposed to be monitored “every five, ten, or fifteen minutes.”

The consequences of the elopment in this case were severe. The senior resident was found unresponsive and rushed to the hospital. He eventually died as a result of the situation.

Inadequate State Accountability
One might expect state regulators to hold the facility strongly accountable for the obvious lapses in care which led to this tragic nursing home death. Not quite. Instead, the facility was fined $500 for leaving the wheelchair bound resident outside alone in the brutal temperatures. The paltry fine was not a result of any determination that the facility was not really at fault. Instead, the penalty was so low, because that is the maximum amount of penalty allowed under state law. No matter how egregious the mistake--in this case, fatal--$500 was the max punishment for one violation of rules on a single day.

With that sort of penalty it is no wonder that many home are loathe to many any changes or invest resources to improve care. After all, even though hiring more care workers may result in vastly improve services (and the prevention of deaths like this one), hiring even a single extra worker is far more expensive than simply paying $500 for the death of a resident.

The accountability simply does not exist in these settings.

That is one of many reasons why it is absolutely crucial for the accountability to be demanded by the family members of those actually hurt via a civil lawsuit. It’s often the only way to ensure proper redress is provided and the best chance at encouraging changes to actually improve the lives of seniors living in poor conditions. Fortunately, the family in this case has already filed a wrongful death lawsuit involving claims of nursing home negligence and abuse.

See Our Related Blog Posts:

Levin & Perconti Settle Illinois Nursing Home Negligence Case for $1 Million

Nursing Home Lawsuit Alleges Chronic Negligence at Facility

October 8, 2010

When Nursing Homes Fail to Investigate- A Look at Alden Nursing Homes

by Levin & Perconti

It seems that all too often we hear of tragic incidents occurring at Nursing Homes. Today, the Chicago Tribune published an article regarding Alden Village North noting that over the past ten years, Alden has been cited thirteen times for violations in connection to the deaths of its patients.

It is unreasonable to believe that any facility can be perfect in their care, but the types of nursing home neglect that Alden has shown is, in our opinion, inexcusable. The law firm of Levin & Perconti has handled a significant number of cases against Alden for their negligent treatment and care of patients. When negligence occurs, it is important for a facility to investigate the source and correct any problems to mitigate these types of incidents. Alden has been neglecting this part of their duty.

A one-year-old Alden Village North resident who suffered from severe Down syndrome was found in his room “unresponsive and blue” about forty-five minutes after having been fed. There was no one in the room when the child died, and as such Alden was responsible to investigate the cause of the child’s death. In a state investigation, it was found that there was no evidence that the facility reviewed whether proper supervision was provided. The facility was also cited for being understaffed and for not reporting his death to the state health department.

This occurrence was by no means an isolated event. As the Tribune reported, Alden has had several other similar situations occur with similar results. Litigation is often a strong way to persuade a facility to change its ways. The medical malpractice attorneys at Levin & Perconti have been attempting to persuade Alden for years and will continue to do so until they are forced to abandon negligently caring for their patients. Hopefully, by making Alden pay for the negligent treatment of their patients, they will be forced to reform their ways and limit the abuse and neglect seemingly rampant at their facilities.

March 15, 2010

Kickbacks made with Chicago Nursing Home Operators

by Levin & Perconti

Illinois state authorities are declining to pursue civil allegations made by whistle-blowers that said one of the nation’s largest pharmacy companies, Ominicare Inc., paid a multimillion-dollar kickback to Chicago nursing home operators. There has been a civil lawsuit filed by two health care industry insiders. This lawsuit claims that Omnicare Inc was allegedly inflating the purchase price it paid for a pharmacy company that was controlled by the Chicago nursing home operators Phillip Esformes and Morris Esformes. These lawsuits were brought under the federal False Claims Act which allows private citizens to file fraud actions on behalf of the government and recover those funds on the government’s behalf.

In 2004 Omicare paid $32 million for Total Pharmacy which included millions of dollars that are alleged to be a kickback to secure long-term pharmacy contracts with the Esformes family’s nursing homes. Illinois Attorney General Lisa Madigan’s office and the U.S. Justice Department declined to intervene for lack of a burden of proof. However, the civil nursing home lawsuit against the owners will continue. The Chicago Tribune reported that the father and son due are listed as part-owners of 28 nursing homes in Illinois and Florida. These cases include a cluster of whistle-blower lawsuits that Omnicare recently settled by paying $98 million. Through these kickbacks Omincare has secured the use of their pharmaceuticals in nursing homes throughout the country. This drives up prices of the drugs and ultimately the cost of patient care. To read more about the nursing home lawsuits, please click the link.

December 10, 2009

Illinois Leads Nation with Most Unsafe Black Nursing Homes

by Levin & Perconti

The Reporter analyzed data from the U.S. Government Accountability Office which listed 580 of the nation’s most unsafe facilities among roughly 16,000 nursing homes in the U.S. 53 of these homes had predominately black residents. Of these 53 facilities, 12 of them were from Illinois which makes us the leading state in the nation. The Chicago Reporter found that of Illinois’ 51 majority-black nursing homes, 24 percent appeared on the federal list for having the worst safety records. This is in contrast to the 5 percent of the state’s white nursing homes that appeared on this least. The Reporter found that the disparities also occurred at a national level. While black nursing homes represent just 5 percent of the state’s nursing homes in the nation, they represent 10 percent of homes on the government’s list of unsafe homes. No other racial or ethnic group was overrepresented in that way. It becomes even worse in Chicago where nearly one in four black nursing homes were listed as being among the most safe unsafe in the nation. They are all located on the south side of the city. The seven homes are: Alden Wentworth Rehab and Health Care Center, All Faith Pavilion, Avenue Care Center, Belhaven Nursing and Rehab Center, Rainbow Beach Care Center, Renaissance Park South, and South Shore Nursing and Rehab Center. To learn more about the disparities in nursing homes, click the link.

December 3, 2009

Death in Nursing Home Shows how Violence Can Spill into the Neighborhoods

by Levin & Perconti

Crimes are being committed by residents of Chicago nursing homes throughout the Uptown and Edgewater neighborhoods. Illinois is a unique state because it allows nursing homes to house younger adults with mental illness patients including several thousand felons. The Chicago lakefront communities of Uptown and Edgewater contain the state’s densest concentration of mentally ill and criminal nursing home residents. In a 2-square-mile section of the neighborhoods, 11 facilities housed 318 convicted felons and 1,350 people with mental illness. Also most of these nursing homes have substandard nursing staff levels and care. This creates a great deal of both nursing home negligence and abuse. To read more about how Chicago nursing homes house mentally ill patients, please click the link.

August 8, 2009

Levin & Perconti Files Nursing Home Negligence on Behalf of Resident against Alden Northmoor

by Levin & Perconti

Attorneys Steven Levin and Margaret Battersby of Levin & Perconti filed a nursing home negligence lawsuit in the Circuit Court of Cook County against Alden Northmoor Rehabilitation and Care Center in Chicago, Illinois. The complaint was filed on behalf of 77-year-old Mary Clifton of Chicago, Illinois for the injuries she sustained at Alden Northmoor. While she was a resident, nursing home staff failed to properly monitor the victim and she swallowed a surgical glove on two separate occasions. After swallowing the gloves, Mary had to undergo two small bowel resections, enduring pain and suffering. The surgeries took a toll on her physical condition and she is now immobile. The nursing home negligence resulted in her inability to retain nutrients. The victim was admitted to Alden Northmoor with a diagnosis of dementia. When she was admitted in October of 2007, nursing home staff noted her to be at risk for wandering and odd behaviors due to her dementia. On April 29, 2008 Mary was allowed to swallow a surgical glove at Alden Northmoor due to poor supervision. She was transferred to a local hospital where she underwent a small bowel resection. Upon her return, the nursing staff still failed to develop a care plan to address the victim’s propensity for putting foreign objects into her mouth. Three months later, she again swallowed a surgical glove and had to undergo a second small bowel resection surgery to remove the foreign object. It was at this time that her family removed her from Alden Northmoor. As a result of her injuries, Mary has experienced decreased mobility and is at risk for further digestive problems including a decreased ability to digest nutrients and dehydration.

“After her first surgery, Alden Northmoor should have created a specific care plan to address her odd behaviors, such as wandering and putting foreign object into her mouth,” said Steve Levin. “Despite the known risk that Mary had put foreign objects in her mouth on another occasion, the nursing home failed to address this behavior or properly monitor Mary and as a result, she had to undergo a second surgery. These surgeries took a serious toll on Mary’s overall condition and now she is immobile and faces an increased risk of future medical complications with her digestive system.”

June 14, 2009

Daughter Files Wrongful Death Lawsuit against Sacred Heart Nursing Home in Chicago

by Levin & Perconti

Chicago personal injury attorneys Michael Bonamarte and John Perconti of Levin & Perconti filed a wrongful death lawsuit against Sacred Heart Home in Chicago. The complaint was filed on behalf of the victim’s mother in the Circuit Court of Cook County for the severe injuries her mother sustained while under Sacred Heart’s care. These injuries lead to her death eight months after her accident at the nursing home. The victim had been diagnosed with bipolar disorder and schizophrenia. On December 21 of 2007 she left her second floor room and exited the hallway through an unalarmed stairwell door at the nursing home. She was found in the first floor stairwell having suffered serious injuries including a broken back, significant head injuries and paralysis. She died approximately eight months later at the age of 61. After her mother’s death, a complaint was filed with the Illinois Department of Public Health who investigated the victim’s case. The IDPH cited the nursing home for Type A violations for failing to appropriately monitor and supervise the victim. Sacred Heart Home had previously been cited for failing to properly supervise residents. The complaint alleges that the nursing home staff failed to develop and implement a proper care plan based on the victim’s medical conditions. Attorney Michael Bonamarte believes that if the proper precautions were put into place, her accident and subsequent death could have been avoided. If you suspect nursing home negligence, find an Illinois nursing home lawyer.

June 13, 2009

Chicago Nursing Home Neglect Attorneys Levin & Perconti File Suit against Nursing Home

by Levin & Perconti

Chicago nursing home lawyers Levin & Perconti have filed a wrongful death lawsuit on behalf of a Harvard, Illinois woman who alleges that the nursing home failed to prevent a fall that led to her mother’s death. The woman is suing Sacred Heart Home in Chicago after her mother died after suffering from a broken back, head injuries and paralysis after she allegedly fell in a stairwell at the home. The 61 year old died eight months later. The case alleges that staff should have better supervised the victim because they knew she had been diagnosed with both bipolar disorder and schizophrenia. The wrongful death lawsuit is seeking damages in excess of $50,000, although Levin & Perconti attorney Mike Bonamarte states that they would be seeking an amount much greater than that. To read more about the Chicago nursing home lawsuit, please click the link.

May 5, 2009

Resident Falls to His Death at Alden Wentworth in Chicago

by Levin & Perconti

An 84-year-old nursing home resident at Alden Wentworth Rehabilitation in Chicago died on May 4 after falling from a window at the nursing home. According to the Southtown Star, the victim was from Chicago’s South Side. At the time of the report, it was not know whether his death was accidental or a suicide. However, the article did note that the victim was suffering from dementia. To read more about this death at Alden Wentworth in Chicago follow the link.

Falls often occur at nursing homes, and in many cases, the results are devastating. "In many instances, deaths such as this are a result of nursing home negligence. When residents suffer from dementia or Alzheimer's, they require a great degree of care and supervision. Unfortunately, serious injuries and death may occur when the nursing home staff fails to provide this care," said Steve Levin of Levin & Perconti in Chicago.

If you or a loved one has suffered serious personal injury or death due to nursing home negligence, please contact our offices by email or at 312-332-2872 to discuss your case with one of our experienced Chicago nursing home lawyers.

April 10, 2009

Nursing Home Employee Arrested After Hitting Resident At Champaign County Nursing Home

by Levin & Perconti

Sharoia Hill of Danville was arrested for alleged assault against a nursing home resident at Champaign County Nursing Home in Urbana. According to a report in the Champaign News-Gazette, Champaign County police arrested Hill, a CNA at the home, for allegedly hitting a resident in the face. The 87-year-old man is a patient in the nursing home’s Alzheimer’s unit. He did not suffer serious injuries from the incident that was witnessed by two other people at the home. The administrator at Champaign County Nursing Home did not comment on the Sharoia Hill but did say that the nursing home is investigating the matter.

Each year, many incidents of elder abuse occur in Illinois, often leading to injury or death. In many instances, caregivers and health care workers play a role in this abuse. The attorneys of Levin & Perconti have handled hundreds of cases involving physical assault in Illinois nursing homes. If you believe that a loved one may be the victim of nursing home abuse, please call our offices at 312-332-2872 for a free consultation to discuss your case.

To read more about the alleged nursing home abuse at Champaign County Nursing Home follow the link.

February 10, 2009

Illinois Woman Freezes to Death After Wandering from Nursing Home

by Levin & Perconti

89-year old Sara Wentworth of the Chicago suburb of Itasca was found frozen to death after wandering from her bed at a nursing home on February 5. Sara was found in the nursing home's courtyard. Sara's daughter noted that police informed her that her mother wandered through two doors before entering into the nursing home's courtyard. Nursing home staff did not realize that Sara was missing until they performed a routine bed check. Every year, hundreds of nursing home residents suffer serious injury or death as a result of wandering.

Levin & Perconti have handled a number of cases where their victims have wandered from nursing homes. In two similar cases in which the victims were found frozen to death, Levin & Perconti received a $950,000 settlement for C.B. v. American Baptist Homes of the Midwest and a settlement of $825,000 for T. for F. v. Manor Care at Oak Lawn.

To read Sara Wentworth's full story of nursing home neglect please click on the link.