The Chicago Daily Law Bulletin has reported that a very influential case has been decided by the Illinois Appellate court. The court ruled that the trial court had erroneously dismissed the plaintiff’s claims against a nursing director.
The case involved a woman who had become a resident of Pinnacle Health Care LLC in Waukegan due to multiple sclerosis. She entered the nursing home without any skin impairments but developed 16 pressure sores during her stay. These pressure ulcers became infected and progressed to more serious stages which included bleeding from a sacral decubitus ulcer. She also developed multiple severe urinary tract infections and respiratory problems. She wrongfully died from respiratory failure.
Her family filed a nursing home lawsuit against Pinnacle and Carolyn English, a registered nurse and director of nursing at the facility. These allegations included medical malpractice and wrongful death. These were all based on the fact that the nursing home employee should have known that the victim was at a high risk for the bed sores and resulting infections in addition to the urinary tract infections. At the trial court level, the nursing director claimed that these were violations of the Illinois Nursing Home Act and state Department of Health regulations. She further argued that liability for violations of the Nursing Home Care Act can be imposed only on the owner or licensee of a nursing home. However, the appeals court stated that “Assessing the allegations in plaintiff’s complaint in the light most favorable to her …, we conclude that the counts against English state claims for healing-art malpractice independent of the Nursing Home Care Act. … Plaintiff’s complaint listed 18 separate negligent acts or omissions by English involving medical judgment. … Given the breadth of the term ‘healing-art malpractice,’ as well as the fact that the allegations in plaintiff’s complaint involve aspects of medical judgment, we conclude that the trial court erred in dismissing the counts against English.” This case will greatly impact nursing home negligence law.