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The Langham Hotel in downtown Chicago was the beautiful, wintry backdrop for the Society of Trial Lawyers 84th Annual Black Tie Dinner Dance this past Saturday. Over 200 guests were in attendance to honor their shared love of the law, as well as their respect for our jury system and for each other, despite often finding themselves on opposing sides. The Society of Trial Lawyers is an invite-only organization of Illinois Trial Lawyers. Members are among the most established, respected, and successful trial lawyers, representing just 1% of the 1% of attorneys who are trial lawyers.

Levin & Perconti founding partner Steve Levin serves as the group’s president and in a heartfelt speech told the crowd that the processes of arbitration and mediation are no more than a business and that “juries are the most literal embodiment of a representative democracy. They are of the people, by the people, for the people. As Thomas Jefferson said, ‘The government closest to the people, serves the people best.'”

Levin also addressed the need for trial lawyers to mentor the younger generation by warmly welcoming them, encouraging them to fight for the truth, and to lead by example. He asked the attendees to do this by modeling respect for not only the trial process, but also for their own clients, opposing counsel and their clients. Steve also called on all attorneys to “be humble in victory and gracious in defeat.”

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In a survey of 978 people with a family member in a nursing home, Care.com found that the decision to send a loved one to a nursing home was a ‘difficult one’ for 71% of survey participants.

Over a quarter of respondents reported their feelings towards their loved one’s care in a nursing home as either “dissatisfied” or “neither satisfied nor dissatisfied.”

The survey also asked respondents to describe how often they visited their loved one in a nursing home and what prevented them from being able to visit more often. The majority of respondents (57%) said their job was the primary reason they were unable to spend more time with a family member in a nursing home.

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Earlier this month, our blog covered the story of a 29 year-old-woman in a vegetative state who had given birth to a baby boy on December 29th. The woman is a longtime resident of Hacienda Healthcare just outside Phoenix, previously falsely reported as admitted to the facility after a near drowning incident as a teenager. Instead, the woman’s family has clarified that she is nonverbal and is intellectually disabled as a result of seizures that began as a toddler. Although she is nonverbal, she is able to move her extremities and head and neck, and can show emotion through facial expressions.

This morning, Phoenix police announced that they had arrested Nathan Sutherland, a 36-year-old male nurse who had been an employee of the facility and was responsible for providing nursing care to the victim. He has been charged with one count of sexual assault and one count of vulnerable adult abuse after he was found to be a DNA match to the infant boy. Police required genetic testing of every male employee of Hacienda after the victim gave birth and although Sutherland initially attempted to forgo testing, he was ultimately forced by police to cooperate.

Sutherland become a Licensed Practical Nurse (LPN) in 2011 and it appears that Hacienda has been his sole employer since becoming an LPN. Prior to receiving his nursing certification, he worked as a nurse aide for 6 years. Earlier today, Hacienda released a statement that Sutherland was immediately fired upon learning of the DNA match, also saying that Sutherland went through a background check prior to being hired. Hacienda has publicly apologized for the incident, promising to follow more robust hiring and training practices.

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Recent reports out of Pennsylvania regarding a push for investigations into suspicious deaths of nursing home and assisted living residents have compelled our nursing home abuse and neglect attorneys to revisit the law here in Cook County regarding nursing home deaths.

All eyes in the elder rights and nursing home abuse law profession have been on Pennsylvania, as the former largest nursing home chain, Golden Living Centers, has become the subject of a lawsuit filed by the PA state attorney general. The lawsuit alleges  poor care, records falsification, failure to prevent insect infestations, poor infection management of residents, and other forms of abuse and neglect that have led to resident injuries and death.

The struggling nursing home chain eventually sold off all of its Pennsylvania locations to different owners. A November 2018 Penn Live investigation called “Still Failing the Frail” found that the majority of the former Golden Living nursing homes are cited as much or more often than they were before the sale, indicating that despite a change of hands, nothing has gotten better at these facilities.

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A 29-year-old woman in a vegetative state has given birth to a baby boy in a Phoenix-area nursing home. The woman, a confirmed member of the San Carlos Apache Tribe, has lived in a vegetative state since she was 15 and nearly drowned. The birth was a complete surprise to staff, not only because her condition makes her unable to consent or engage in sexual activity, but because they were completely unaware of her pregnancy until she went into labor.

Through their lawyer, the woman’s family released a statement, saying in part “The family is obviously outraged, traumatized and in shock by the abuse and neglect of their daughter at Hacienda Healthcare.”

Facility Has Persistent Low Ratings, but Promises to Take Accountability for Rape

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People with mental health conditions that impact their ability to make decisions cannot consent to sexual relations. To allow elderly residents with dementia to engage in intimate relations in a nursing home under the guise that it is “consensual,” and in some respects promote it as a policy, is inexcusable.

An Illinois appellate court has sided with the Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services (CMS) on their decision to heavily fine an Illinois nursing home for a policy that allowed residents with dementia to engage in sexual relationships.

Generations at Neighbors in Byron, IL previously allowed residents with dementia or other cognitive difficulties to have intimate relations with fellow residents, provided that the interactions seemed consensual. CMS, citing this policy as an Immediate Jeopardy violation, fined the facility $83,000. Immediate Jeopardy citations are reserved for those “situations in which the provider’s noncompliance with one or more requirements of participation has caused, or is likely to cause, serious injury, harm, impairment or death to a resident.”

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“Since nurse staffing is directly related to the quality of care that residents experience, CMS is very concerned about the risk to resident health and safety that these situations may present.”

-11/18/18 CMS memo to state nursing home surveyors

The Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services (CMS), the federal agency tasked with regulating nursing homes, has updated rules for nursing home staffing levels and how they report employee hours.

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A Chicago psychiatric hospital responsible for treating children in state custody with the most serious psych conditions is facing serious allegations of sexual assault from its patients.

Chicago Lakeshore Psychiatric Hospital, located in the city’s Uptown neighborhood, has served as a lifeline for Illinois’ Department of Children and Family Services (DCFS), taking foster children with psychiatric issues that other hospitals just wouldn’t treat. Since at least 2008 DCFS has been aware of incidents of loose supervision of its young patients, resulting in sexual abuse and assault by fellow residents and even staff. A government agency created to protect the safety and welfare of our children not only knows about these cases of abuse and neglect, but for at least 10 years have allowed these problems to persist, continuing to send children entrusted to their care to the hospital.

Allegations of sexual assault and abuse at the hospital reached a fever pitch this year. According to ProPublica, there have been 16 allegations of sexual and physical abuse and neglect against the hospital since January, including 2 allegations of sexual assault against the same 7-year-old girl. The girl alleges that on separate occasions, a 12-year-old fellow patient and an employee digitally penetrated her. Of these 16 allegations, the Illinois Department of Public Health (IDPH) found enough evidence to support 4 cases and are currently investigating 5 others. There was not enough evidence to substantiate the other 7 allegations.

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“Imagine someone in the inside of a car with the doors locked and the windows rolled up and that person is nonverbal and can’t communicate. And you leave that person in the car until they die.

That’s what happened to our client, but it happened in a health care facility instead of a car.”  Attorney Steve Levin

https://youtu.be/e966vpOoesg

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It’s a tragic end to a story that should have never happened. On Monday, Chicago Police discovered the body of Ernestine Booker, a 67-year-old woman suffering from dementia who disappeared from her Bronzeville nursing home on October 23rd. Ms. Booker’s body was found at the Sykes Center, a now-closed Advocate outpatient healthcare center at 2545 S. King Drive, approximately 2.5 miles from the nursing home from which she disappeared. The cause of death has not yet been released, but Chicago Police said there is no evidence of a homicide.

While the full details of her disappearance have not been shared with the public, we do know that Ms. Booker left her nursing home unnoticed around 11 a.m. Her family notified the police that same day and Chicago police asked for the public’s assistance in locating her.

When families place their loved ones in the care of a nursing home, the minimum expectation is that the nursing home will keep track of their whereabouts. As we shared in an earlier post, residents with dementia are more prone to wandering a facility or eloping (leaving).