The Chicago Tribune reported this week on the near-end of a tragic case of Chicago nursing home neglect involving a long-term care facility in West Rogers Park. The story is a complex one with a senior woman who drowned herself in a bathtub at the facility. An Illinois wrongful death lawsuit was eventually filed in the case by the woman’s adult daughter. A settlement agreement has apparently been reached and is not awaiting approval from the court. All settlement agreements require final court approval before becoming effective, though in most cases there is not an issue with securing that approval.
According to the Tribune report, the elderly woman allegedly committed suicide in the bathtub in July of 2010. Of course, some might wonder how a third-party could be liable for a suicide. However, our Chicago nursing home neglect lawyers often explain that many seniors in these facilities have various vulnerabilities. Some of those vulnerabilities include risk of self-harm. When the risks are known, then it is critical for caregivers to account for the possibility of self-harm. Close observation is often involved. Failure to provide that observation and oversight, therefore, is often a sign of neglect–care falling below of reasonable standard. When neglect causes harm, then a civil lawsuit is often appropriate to ensure accountability.
In this case, the documents filed with the Cook County Circuit Court note that the facility did not properly monitor the woman, even after she express clear suicidal ideas to staff members. This illustrates a crucial point in many civil law negligence cases–unique duties. Outside of the nursing home context, a third party is not likely to be liable for harm suffered by someone who expressed suicidal thoughts even if they did not do anything to stop the individual. In most cases there is not an affirmative duty to act to help another.
Yet, that changes in certain circumstances when special duties are placed on individuals under the law. That includes the duty of a nursing home to care for the well-being of seniors in the home. The reason for this is obvious, the caregivers are voluntarily taking on a commitment to help one with particular vulnerabilities. Taking on that obligation comes with legal requirements, like acting to prevent a resident from harming themselves.
The article explains how the 51-year old nursing home resident in this case was found by staff members while in the facility’s tub room. The water was running at the time. Emergency officials were called, and the woman was rushed to a local medical facility where she passed away. There was initially some confusion about the cause of death, with examiners unclear as to whether it was a suicide, homicide, or accident.
In this case, after filing the lawsuit the adult daughter has apparently reached an agreement with the facility. The settlement is for $102,500.
Our Chicago nursing home neglect lawyers work with many family members in similar situations. If you suspect that a loved one may have suffered harm after mistreatment at a long-term care facility, please call our office to see how we can help.
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