Hidden dangers are ever-present at long-term care facilities. Considering the unique vulnerabilities of many residents and equipment used at these homes, a myriad of different harms can befall residents when they do not receive adequate care and fall victim to nursing home neglect. For example, last week the Madison St. Clair Record reported on the filing of a new lawsuit after a resident suffered frostbite due to an oxygen tank leak.
The complaint in the suit claims that the one hundred year old resident was using an oxygen tank, with tubes running into her nose to help pump the needed air supply her body. However, two years ago, an accident struck that caused severe injury to the woman and, according to the claim, was rooted in Illinois nursing home negligence. Apparently, while one of the nursing home employees was helping the woman with the tank, something went wrong. A leak developed, which caused a “cloud of white smoke” to envelop the resident’s face. The oxygen tank is pressurized and kept incredibly cold, and so the release of the tank’s contents on the resident’s face was no minor incident. The tubes froze to the woman’s neck and check. In addition, the nasal prongs froze to the tips of the woman’s nostrils.
The complaint alleges that as a result of the frostbite the senior’s overall health condition deteriorated. She apparently suffered from consistent pain and her disabilities increased. She ultimately died a little less than two months after the oxygen tank incident. The family has filed suit against the nursing home as well as the companies which supplied and inspected the oxygen tank.
Many who are learning about the civil justice know that “foreseeability” is an important legal concept. Our Illinois nursing home neglect lawyers often share how an injury being foreseeable is generally part of the proof requirement of these suits. Without knowing more of the foreseeability requirement one might be tempted to suggest that a resident suffering frostbite in this way might not be foreseeable. However, that misses two important points.
First, while it doesn’t make headlines often, this type of injury occurs far more often than one might expect. When using these sorts of equipment with frozen components, the chance for frostbite is present and must be guarded against.
Second, the foreseeability requirement acts as a potential bar on a lawsuit only in the most extreme cases-all injuries from equipment would not fall under that rubric. The requirement only intends to guard against harms that are usually far removed from the actual negligent act. For example, if a resident wanders out of a facility, drops trash on the ground, and a nearby walker slips on that trash causing injury to the walker, then the court may be unlikely to hold the facility accountable for the injury to the walker because that chain of events was highly unlikely and not foreseeable. Of course, that series of events seems a bit absurd, which serves the purpose of indicating how unlikely it is that an injury to a resident or caused by a resident as a result of nursing home negligence would ever be deemed barred because of a lack of foreseeability.
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