The Watertown Daily Times reported last week on the conclusion of a nursing home neglect lawsuit. The case stemmed from the death of a 94-year old woman at a county run nursing facility a few years ago. According to reports, the resident was accidentally given the wrong medication. The medication was given to the resident for two weeks straight before she ultimately passed away from complications caused in part by the error. It was only after an autopsy was performed on the woman that those involved learned that she had been receiving matolazone instead of methimazole. The similarity in the drug names was cited as the reason for the mistake. However, obviously the fact that two drugs sound the same is not sufficient justification to avoid liability in a subsequent civil suit requiring them to pay for the consequences of their actions.
Both the county which managed the facility as well as the drug company which filled the prescription were named as defendants in the lawsuit. The county agreed to pay nearly $90,000 for the death. In addition, the drug company will pay the family about $47,000 for their role in the mistake and death.
This case represents a few basic principles of negligence law which our Chicago nursing home abuse lawyers know can be a bit confusing for new clients trying to understand the process. One concept that many Illinois nursing home neglect victims and their families don’t initially understand is: who should we sue? Naming defendants in a lawsuit is never a straightforward or automatic process. As this case demonstrates, there are often many different involved parties to a single incident of negligence.
It is perhaps easiest to explain by discussing the two common theories of liability under which any party may be added to a lawsuit.
1) Independent Act of Negligence: Many parties are named as defendants in a case because they engaged in a specific act of negligence. This is what most residents think of when they image why a party would be attached to a lawsuit. For example, the individual who incorrectly read the form and filled the prescription wrongly engaged in an individual act of negligence. In addition, the nurses at the facility may have been independently negligent in not catching the error or checking to ensure that the medication they were giving the woman was appropriate.
2) Vicarious Liability: Beyond independent acts of negligence, many parties are added to a lawsuit and named as defendants under theories of vicarious liability. This involves agency law rules. In short, the law will demand that some individuals and entities be held responsible for the actions of those who act inappropriately in furtherance of a goal of the individual or entity. This is most commonly seen in the employee/employer relationship. Companies can be sued for the conduct of their employees. Nursing homes can be sued for the actions of their nurses and nurses’ assistants.
When each Illinois nursing home lawyer at our firm takes on a new case and prepares for filing a new suit, he or she will closely considered these theories of liability. All of the questions that a lawyer asks a new client is geared toward better identifying issues such as this, determining who played a role in the harm and who is legally obligated to provide redress and accountability.
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