Criminal Charges After Nursing Home Resident Fire Death

The Republic is reporting that a 19-year old nursing home employee was arrested and charged with the death of a resident at the facility. The unique circumstances of the incident are a reminder to each Chicago nursing home lawyer at our firm of the range of risks faced by seniors. When an individual is totally dependent on another, the potential for mistreatment and abuse is incredibly high–many safeguards need to be in place to prevent nursing home neglect.

The incident in this case occurred late last November. There was a fire at the nursing home which began in a storage room at the facility. Obviously these situations are incredibly dangerous, because many residents are unable to get out of the facility on their own. Instead, immobile residents are often forced to wait until employees help them out. With limited employees, the chance of a resident being hurt in a nursing home fire is far higher than injury risks in other settings.

In this case, an 89-year old resident died as she was being evacuated during the fire. The story does not explain the exact circumstances of the passing, whether it was related to the fire, smoke, or other problem during the evacuation.

In any event, authorities investigating the incident soon learned that an employee of the facility entered the storage room moments before the fire started. Surveillance footage revealed the details. This week the employee was arrested at his home. He is charged with two counts of aggravated arson and murder.

Nursing Home Accountability
Many different legal implications arise from this situation. On one hand there are criminal charges filed against the employee. Depending on the outcome of that case the individual may face serious punishment, likely including jail time. At the same time a civil lawsuit may be filed–if it hasn’t already been filed–against the nursing home itself.

The civil law has “agency” rules whereby one party (another individual, business, or government) can be held responsible for the conduct of another party. Employer-employee relationship are perhaps the most common situation where an “agency” relationship exists. In most cases, so long as the employee is working at the time of incident there may be liability on the part of the employer for the conduct. However, different rules exist regarding intentional acts by employees or acts not done in the course of the employment.

If the facility is not liable vicariously through the employee, then the facility may still face liability as a result of its own negligence which led to the incident. For example, if the facility failed to abide by proper hiring practices, training, or screening, then there may be an independent act of negligence which contributed to the underlying injury.

Our nursing home neglect lawyers advise residents that all of these issues hinge on case specific information, and so it is crucial to get tailored legal advice when determining how the law might apply in your case. In our area, the Chicago nursing home attorneys at Levin & Perconti are available to help all local families with neglect and abuse suspicions.

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