Many observers have followed with much interest the nursing home neglect case from West Virginia where a jury found the defendant-facility negligent and awarded the victim’s family $91.5 million. The verdict was reached after a trial related to the death of a resident with dementia at a nursing home. The son of the woman claimed that his mother died in 2009 after the caregivers at the home failed to provide her with enough food and water over a three week period. After hearing the evidence in the case the jury agreed with the plaintiff and found against the nursing home.
As was expected, the facility is planning to appeal the decision to the state’s Supreme Court. One of main grounds for appeal is a distorted claim that the award was not subject to the state’s medical malpractice cap laws. Regardless of the injustice of the caps (which we frequently discuss), it is unlikely that the law should apply to this case. As the plaintiff’s lawyer explained, the nurses’ aides that provided the delinquent care in this case are not considered “health care providers” under the definition of the statute which created the damage caps. The narrow law does not apply to nursing home lawsuits such as this one and so the appeal should fail.
It was explained how the 87-year old victim in this case died because her caregivers failed in the very basic task of providing her sufficient nutrition and hydration. These are tasks which do not involve specialized medicinal skills. One does not need a medical license to give a patient food and water. In fact, the aides’ involved are not qualified to give medication or provide most of the services that a physician could provide. Therefore, no medical negligence occurred per the definition in the statute.
Of course, the plaintiff explained how one of the main problems which led to the woman’s unfortunate death had nothing to do with medicine-the understaffing of the nursing home. Time and again nursing home negligence is rooted in facilities’ failure to ensure that there are enough employees in a home to take care of the responsibilities that they have to provide prudent care to each and every resident of the home. However, instead of hiring more staff members, many facilities try to use fewer employees than feasible to provide the care. As a result, corners are cut and some residents are left behind-like the victim in this case.
Our Illinois nursing home neglect attorneys have filed many lawsuits against the parent company involved in this case, HCR ManorCare, Inc. We well understand the abysmal care that is sometimes provided at these facilities and the importance for families to come forward, file a nursing home neglect lawsuit, and seek accountability. It is only by holding these wrongdoers feet to the fire that they often consider the lives of their residents more important than maximizing their own profits. As this case demonstrates, when staffing levels are cut to the bone, there are often insufficient employees to even conduct the most basic tasks like ensuring that residents have enough food and water.
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