$90.5 Million Verdict in Nursing Home Abuse Case to be Appealed

A West Virginia jury awarded $90.5 million in damages to a family who alleged nursing home abuse and neglect back in 2010. The nursing home has taken the case to the West Virginia Supreme Court once already, according to an article in West Virginia’s State Journal. And this time, they’re arguing that the state’s Medical Professional Liability Act (MPLA) should require the court to apportion damages in their favor.

This case could have important implications for nursing home abuse damages in California. While the West Virginia Supreme Court’s ruling won’t bind California courts, it may set the tone for the ways in which damages are approached and apportioned in nursing home abuse cases.

Details of the Nursing Home Neglect

In 2010, 87-year-old Dorothy Douglas died while in the care of a West Virginia nursing home. That same year, Tom Douglas, the victim’s son, filed a claim against Manor Care Inc., HCR Manor Care Services Inc., Healthcare and Retirement Corp. of America LLC, and Heartland Employment Services LLC. He alleged that his mother died because of severe dehydration and malnutrition while in the nursing home.

The nursing home argued instead that Dorothy Douglas died as a result of her dementia, and not from dehydration or malnutrition. The nursing home explained that she had been transferred to a hospice facility 18 days before her death due to her dementia-related health decline.

Jury Awards Whopping Verdict for Tom Douglas

When the case went to trial in Kanawha County Circuit Court, the jury awarded Tom Douglas (and his family) $91.5 million. In so doing, it found that the nursing home had been “responsible for ordinary and medical negligence,” and that it violated its fiduciary duties and portions of the Nursing Home Act in the state.

The jury awarded $11 million for the death itself, or compensatory damages, and $80 million in punitive damages. Punitive damages aren’t typically awarded to compensate the victim in a case, but rather to deter the defendant from engaging in this kind of conduct in the future. In many ways, punitive damages are a way for the jury to punish a defendant who has committed an especially bad act. Due to statutory caps on certain damages, the Kanawha County circuit judge reduced the award to $90.5 million.

The Nursing Home’s Appeals

The nursing home appealed to the West Virginia Supreme Court for a write of prohibition, arguing that there had been an error in the jury verdict form. If granted, a writ of prohibition could prevent enforcement of the Kanawha County Circuit Court’s order, which didn’t include this specific jury verdict form on the record. The West Virginia Supreme Court found in favor of the nursing home, allowing them to add their proposed verdict form to the record.

Now, the nursing home is appealing to the West Virginia Supreme Court again, but this time to reduce Douglas’s damages. The nursing home contends that the MPLA “supercedes the Nursing Home Act.” At the original trial, Douglas argued that damage caps through the MPLA wouldn’t apply because the majority of the jury’s damages were for ordinary negligence, and not medical negligence specifically. However, if the MPLA were to be applied in this case, the medical negligence damages would have to be capped at $594,000. This is significantly less than the jury’s original award. The nursing home makes a few other claims as well, including that damages were incorrectly awarded to Douglas’s daughter, who wasn’t named as a party in the lawsuit.

While we’ll have to wait to see how the West Virginia Supreme Court decides, experienced nursing home abuse attorneys are available to speak to you today about nursing home neglect and abuse in California. If you or an elderly loved one have been neglected or abused in a nursing home, you may be eligible for compensation. Contact us today.

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Court Grants Access to Victim’s Medical Records in Nursing Home Abuse Case

Medication Errors in Skilled Nursing Facilities

Long-term living locations catered to seniors are often referred to as “skilled nursing facilities” (nursing homes) and “assisted living facilities.” The basic distinction between these types of homes is the level of care provided to residents. Assisted living facilities provide only general aid, perhaps with meals, cleaning, laundry, and other day to day tasks. Conversely, skilled nursing facilities can provide actual medical care. Seniors with more serious health care issues usually need the support that is provided at a traditional nursing home instead of an assisted living facility.

However, the fact that skilled nursing facilities are able to provide some medical care also means that they may commit medical malpractice. One of the most common ways this happens is when nurses and aides make errors with regard to medication. Obviously many seniors in long-term care facilities rely on the various medications to help control different medical issues. When medication is not provided properly, serious harm can result.

A recent Legal Examiner story touched on that very issue. The article points to a study that we have referenced before from the Journal of the American Medical Informatics Association. That research project found a significant number of medication problem in nursing homes. As noted, the most eye-popping statistics from the research effort is that observers identified that about 21.2% of all dispensals of medication involved some error.

This is an alarming statistic on its face. There is simply no excuse for more than 2 out of every 10 cases of medication being provided to come with some error. Most regulatory agencies have caps on the amount of medication error levels that long-term care facilities are required to fall below. That rate is usually around 5 percent, which means that many facilities are not coming close to those standards. When a large number of facilities cannot meet common-sense safety benchmarks, we have a real problem.

Nursing Home Wrongful Death
Seniors are in nursing homes specifically because they have medical vulnerabilities. That means that mistakes related to their care can have more far-reaching impact than if the same mistake struck a younger, healthier individual. Caregivers know this, which is why they are required to act appropriately at all times to minimize the risk of preventable harm.

Sadly, that frequently does not happen, and lives are literally lost as a result. When that occurs, a nursing home wrongful death lawsuit may be filed to demand accountability. In the past these suits have been pursued for any number of errors, including giving the wrong medication to the wrong patient, providing the wrong dose to a resident, or forgetting to provide a critical medication at all.

In fact, the Legal Examiner story points to one Illinois case from earlier this year where a senior allegedly died as a result of a deadly medication combination. Neither the woman’s nursing home caregivers or doctor caught the problem, leading to her untimely and preventable death.

If a loved one that you know may have suffered ill-effects as the result of medication problems in a nursing home, please get in touch with our elder neglect attorneys to see how we can help.

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Arbitration Fairness Act of 2013 Introduced in Congress

Levin & Perconti Filed IL Nursing Home Lawsuit Against Applewood Rehabilitation Center

Arbitration Fairness Act of 2013 Introduced in Congress

The fight to preserve everyone’s ability to make a case in front of a judge or jury continues. In the nursing home context, following elder abuse or neglect, one of the biggest impediments to that right is the use of confusing and unfair mandatory arbitration clauses in nursing home admission contracts.

There have been many legal battles over this issue in recent years. Some of those arguments occur in courtrooms while others are taking place in legislative halls. The recent court battles usually involve more detailed issues about contract principles–who signed, who is bound, and whether or not many factors in the creation of the contract violated fairness principles. In general, state and federal courts have upheld these agreements on occasion but also found that under certain circumstances they can be thrown out.

The fight at the legislative level is usually more sweeping, involving proposed laws that would affect many different cases. For example, this week a new federal law was proposed in Congress known as the Arbitration Fairness Act of 2013. As discussed by the American Association for Justice, the new law seeks to end the abusive practice of so many large corporations, including nursing home conglomerates, that seek to insulate themselves from legal accountability with forced arbitration. As the AAJ summarized, the law is critically needed, because when it comes to arbitration, “The process is secretive, costly and rigged so that corporations cannot be held accountable. By removing access to justice, it grants corporations a license to steal and violate the law.”

The Proposed Legislation
The Arbitration Fairness Act would end these practices. Specifically, the law bars the use of forced arbitration in all consumer, employment, civil rights, and anti-trust cases. Arbitration could still be pursued in these cases but only if it is actually voluntarily entered into by the parties–not in take-it-or-leave it situations clouded in fine print.

The law was introduced in the Senate by MN Senator Al Franken and in the House by GA Rep. Hank Johnson. So far 17 other Senators and 22 House members have signed on as co-sponsors.

However, considering the party split in Congress, the actual passage of the law faces an uphill battle. While it likely has a better chance of making it out of the Senate, it would take surprising changes for the full House to consider and pass the bill. Similar legislation has been introduced in recent years without passage. But that does not mean that the measure this year should not be promoted. The more information we share with other community members about the dangers and the need for arbitration reform, the better.

Protect Your Rights
The Chicago nursing home abuse lawyers at our firm urge all Illinois residents to be vigilant about the documents signed upon admission. If you are presented with a mandatory arbitration agreements, refuse to sign it. Considering the frequency with which neglect occurs and the severe harm that it may cause, it is never a good idea to give up you or your loved one’s right to a fair legal hearing via the traditional process.

For help understanding any of these issues following your own experience with elder abuse, please contact the nursing home neglect lawyers at our firm at any time.

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Nursing Home Industry Continues to Insulate Itself from Civil Accountability

U.S. Supreme Court Will Not Overrule Illinois Nursing Home Arbitration Case

Levin & Perconti File IL Nursing Home Lawsuit Against Applewood Rehabilitation Center

Bed sores are one of the most well-known signs of inadequate nursing home care. When residents do not receive attentive aid over a period of time, these skin breakdowns may develop, causing serious injury, pain, and (in some cases) contributing to the death of a senior resident. Elder caregivers must be well-versed in these pressure ulcers, understanding how they develop and what needs to be done to make sure they are properly treated. If nursing home caregiver fail in this regard, then the civil law may allow the senior (or their family) to seek legal accountability.

Illinois Bed Sore Lawsuit
That is exactly what is happening in a new nursing home neglect lawsuit filed by our legal team at Levin & Perconti against the Applewood Rehabilitation Center in Matteson, Illinois. We are representing a family in the legal matter whose 81-year old senior relative passed away in January 2012 after a stay at the facility.

The senior first entered Applewood in November of 2011 after a serious stroke that paralyzed the right portion of her body. As often happens with those who suffer a stroke, the senior’s paralysis made it impossible for her to conduct basic maneuvers like shifting in bed, moving weight from one part of her body to another. These mobility challenges are a key factor in the development of pressure sores. The caregivers at Applewood knew this, and the senior was documented as “at-risk” for developing pressure sores upon her admission.

That documentation should have meant that caregivers took proper steps to prevent the development of sores–repositioning, proper nutrition, adequate hydration, etc.

Sadly, they failed in that regard. A little over a month after arriving at the facility she was brought to a local hospital. Once there she was diagnosed as suffering from dehydration. In addition, medical professionals discovered several bed sores, including one that was of the most serious variety (Stage IV) on her sacrum. These complications led to her death the following month.

The family eventually sought the aid of our Illinois bed sore lawyers. We recently filed suit on their behalf in the Circuit Court of Cook County. In summarizing the situation, our senior partner Attorney Steve M. Levin explained, “Our suit alleges that once she developed bed sores, staff should have notified her physician and family and then taken steps to prevent them from getting worse. Unfortunately, staff failed to do so, and their negligence contributed to her tragic death less than a month after leaving the facility.”

Levin went on to explain how these sorts of neglect cases are often spurred by management decisions at the facilities in question. For example, understaffing remains a serious problem when owners and operators do not devote the resources necessary to provide the care residents’ need in order to maximize their bottom line. When that happens, even the most well-meaning front-line care-workers are unable to provide the time, attention, and support they they would like to each resident. As a result of prioritizing profits over resident, many seniors suffer needlessly.

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Nursing Home Industry Continues to Insulate Itself from Civil Accountability

U.S. Supreme Court Will Not Overrule Illinois Nursing Home Arbitration Case

Levin & Perconti Attorneys Discuss Illinois Nursing Home Care Act In Law Bulletin’s Law Day Publication

For decades the Illinois nursing home abuse lawyers at Levin & Perconti have aided local seniors and their families following nursing home neglect. While there is slowly a growing awareness of the real need to address the rampant nature of nursing home mistreatment (thanks largely to demographic changes), we still have a long way to go before nursing home residents are treated as well as possible in all locations.

Legal accountability following preventable harm is one of the key ways to improve overall care. If poor care is a financial negative for these owners and operators, then they are far more likely to do what it takes to raise standards. It is partially with that idea in mind that the state of Illinois has a law known as the Illinois Nursing Home Care Act. The statute outlines how private community member can hold nursing home accountable for their poor care–it is a critical legal protection for all Illinoisans. Our attorneys frequent protect resident rights based on the provisions in this law.

Recently, two of our attorneys contributed to an article published in the Law Bulletin’s “Law Day” publication discussing the nature of the Illinois Nursing Home Care Act. You can download the full article in .pdf form by clicking here.

Understanding the Illinois Nursing Home Care Act
In the story, attorneys Steve M. Levin and Margaret P. Battersby Black discuss the most recent changes to this law. Their article analyzes the impact that those changes will have on civil litigation related to nursing home abuse and neglect in Illinois.

In particular, the story takes a look at a 2010 modification to the law that alters the definition of “neglect” such that more instances of inadequate care may result in legal liability. Essentially, the change eliminates the need to prove that failure to provide care caused injury by expanding the definition to include instances where injury did not directly result.

In addition, there is a “fee shifting” provision in the new law. This means that, if liability is found, then the defendant nursing home is required to pay for costs and attorneys fees. In general, all costs and fees are borne separately by each party in a lawsuit, regardless of the outcome. By changing the rules in these cases, private attorneys are now able to pursue worthy cases where clearly inadequate care is provided, but compensable injury is minimal or non-existent.

For example, in cases where basic care like bathing, nutrition, etc. is not provided, it may be difficult to show injury that would result in economic harm. Because these cases are taken on a contingency fee basis, without the possibility of clear injury it is usually difficult to pursue these worthy matters. However, by shifting the obligation of attorney’s fees onto defendants, private attorneys will more readily take on meritorious cases of obvious neglect, even if specific harm cannot be proven or has yet to occur. In many ways it is helpful to think of this change as allowing for more preventative liability–savings lives by not requiring severe injury before demanding accountability.

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Nursing Home Industry Continues to Insulate Itself from Civil Accountability

U.S. Supreme Court Will Not Overrule Illinois Nursing Home Arbitration Case

High Hospitalization Rates Linked to Elder Abuse

A recent study in JAMA Internal Medicine confirmed that abused and neglected elderly persons face much higher risks for hospitalization, and not necessarily for injuries suffered as a result of their mistreatment. According to Dr. Theresa Soriano, an associate professor of medicine in geriatrics and palliative care in the Icahn School of Medicine at Mount Sinai, “It is understandable how a vulnerable older person experiencing abuse may fail to prioritize the prevention or care of their health conditions.”

Hospitalization rates especially tend to increase when elderly persons rely upon an abusive family member as a caregiver. They can miss medical appointments, adhere poorly to required diets and medication schedules, and they can experience increased stress and anxiety. As a result, all of these things can contribute to “poor control of any medical conditions and increased hospitalizations,” according to an article in Health magazine.

Details of the Study
The recent study analyzed information from more than 6,500 older adults who participated in the Chicago Health and Aging Project. Dr. XinQi Dong from Rush University Medical Center and Dr. Melissa Simon from Northwestern University Medical Center led the study.

They gathered reports from various social service agencies to identify 106 elder persons who were victims of abuse between 1993 and 2010. The researchers then reviewed hospitalization rates compiled by the U.S. Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services, and they found that “the annual rate of hospitalization was more than doubled for those who reported elder abuse versus those who did not.”

When drawing final conclusions, the researchers determined that all kinds of elder abuse can affect hospitalization rates—not just physical abuse and neglect. In fact, they concluded that “elderly people who suffered psychological abuse, financial exploitation, caregiver neglect, or two or more types of abuse were hospitalized more frequently than those without reported elder abuse.”

With hospitalization rates increasing for older adults, should we be asking if elder abuse is a growing problem in the U.S.?

Experts Suggest Elder Mistreatment is a Growing Problem
In addition to the medical experts who conducted the study for JAMA Internal Medicine, other experts in the field also worry that elder abuse leading to higher hospitalization rates is a problem that isn’t going away.

According to Dr. Gisele Wolf-Klein, the director of geriatric education at the North Shore-LIJ Health System in New York, about 10 percent of elderly persons in America are victims of abuse, and “the trend is increasing.” In fact, Wolf-Klein indicated that psychological abuse may be a primary culprit for hospitalization.

What can we do? The important thing is to spot elder abuse early and to report it to social services agencies. While this can be a challenge for many reasons, early reporting can help to reduce the rates of elder hospitalization. And Wolf-Klein suggests that some caregivers may be relieved to have assistance from social services agencies. “The ultimate goal for our society,” she explains, “is to enable these social services agencies to provide overwhelmed caregivers of older adults with the support they need on a daily basis, in order to successfully manage the complex demands of frail patients totally dependent on others.”

If you suspect that an elderly loved one has been a victim of elder abuse or neglect, contact an experienced attorney today to discuss your case.

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Quality of Life

Nursing Home Industry Continues Push to Insulate Itself from the Civil Law

Fairness does not seem like that difficult of a concept to grasp. After all, that is essentially what the justice system is all aboard–creating an environment where two sides with a disagreement to have the matter resolved in as fair a way as possible. Rules are intended to apply equally to both sides, and decisions decided by a neutral third party (if not settled by the parties themselves first).

That is certainly how is is supposed to work when it comes to nursing home neglect cases. A resident or family claims that negligent care was provided, and they are able to provide evidence to back up their claims in court while the facility is able to offer counter-evidence. A neutral third party–often a jury–is able to weigh the evidence and make a decision. Seems fair, right?

Sadly, the nursing home industry does not seem to care that much about fairness. At both the state and federal level lobbyists for the industry are working to change the legal rules–tilting them in their favor and away from individual residents and their families. Of course, individual community members cannot afford to pay high-profile lobbyists to protect their rights. That makes it incumbent upon all of us who care about proper nursing home care and the legal rights of elder neglect victims to stand up and make noise whenever policymakers are seeking to change rules yet again in violation of basic rules of fairness.

Punitive Damage and Liability Standards
That is exactly what seems to be happening down in Florida, as state lawmakers are considering passage of a law that changes the legal rules to make it harder for nursing homes to be punished when they provide inadequate care that harms residents.

In particular, as discussed in Tampa Tribune article from late April, the state may raise the standard regarding what a party must show before a jury may award punitive damages against the facility. Punitive damages are those awarded irrespective of economic or noneconomic damages to the specific plaintiff. Instead they are based on actually punishing the facility for their egregious conduct.

Per the proposed law, plaintiffs would now be required to show “conclusive evidence of abuse” or “severe misconduct.” Lawyers working on these cases know what these small changes actually mean–nursing homes will be virtually completely shielded from punitive liability. That is not because they do not cause severe harm, but because meeting the evidentiary standard is virtually impossible in most cases.

The Tribune editorial on the matter–in which they call for the bill to be defeated–summarized one key problem: “Under the bill being proposed, only nursing home owners found to have ‘actively and knowingly participated in intentional misconduct’ would be liable for punitive damages. That would reward an owner’s ignorance of their own operations.”

The bottom line cannot be repeated enough: Nursing homes should not be allowed to hide from legal responsibility for their poor care by changing the rules. No one who values fairness should stand idly by while these powerful interest force through dangerous legislation that does nothing more than allow negligent senior care to perpetuate without accountability.

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U.S. Supreme Court Will Not Overrule Illinois Nursing Home Abuse Case

Nursing Home Bed Rail Safety Petition to CPSC

U.S. Supreme Court Will Not Overrule Illinois Nursing Home Arbitration Case

Most legal issues related to nursing home abuse and neglect are state cases. In general, injury matters are rooted in basic negligence that is heard in state court, unless there are unique issues involved or parties from different states. One of those unique issues which has actually led to federal court decisions in recent years relates to arbitration.

We have frequently discussed how binding arbitration agreements are often snuck into nursing home admission forms. These agreements may require a family to use a separate arbitration process to resolve disputes–including those for neglect and abuse–instead of filing a lawsuit and being heard in the traditional manner. The procedural rules are different in arbitration, and it is a process that is generally far more favorable for the nursing home company–that is why they like it.

Over the years, there have been various legal cases challenging the validity of these mandatory arbitration agreements. Those cases have made various arguments as to why specific agreements are invalid as well as why all such agreements should not hold. Some of those suits were made in state courts, while a few have been heard by federal judges.

Sometimes cases are first heard through the state system and then appealed to the federal Supreme Court. That is what happened in one high-profile Illinois nursing home abuse case involving an arbitration agreement. McKnight’s Long-Term Care News recently reported on the developments in that case.

Illinois Arbitration Agreements
In the case, a daughter sought to hold the nursing home where her mother lived accountable for neglect which she claimed led to her mother’s death. After filing the suit, the nursing home sought to enforce an arbitration agreement. The agreement was signed by the daughter (as her mother’s representative) during the admission process. Eventually, the daughter’s attorneys countered that the daughter herself was not bound by the agreement, because she did not sign for herself–only her mother. Therefore, the daughter was able to bring a traditional lawsuit regardless of the arbitration agreement, because she was bringing the suit in her own name.

That legal issue was argued up to the Illinois Supreme Court. Our high court agreed that the daughter was not bound by the agreement, and the suit could proceed. Not giving up, the defendants in the case appealed the state court case to the U.S. Supreme Court. This option is not always available–some federal issue must usually be at issue in the case.

In this matter, the defendants claimed that a federal law–the Federal Arbitration Act–expressly forbade state rules, like those here in Illinois, from disallowing arbitration agreements in this way. Essentially, in this case the agreement did not apply because Illinois finds that wrongful death claims are separate legal actions than related claims connected to the same abuse. Because they are a different cause of action, they are not bound by limits which might be imposed on the individual physically harmed in their own suit. Other states have different rules.

As McKnight’s reported recently, the U.S. Supreme Court has refused to hear the case. That ends the options from the defendant’s, leaving the Illinois Supreme Court ruling in place.

This is a positive steps for Illinois residents and others who may be affected by nursing home neglect.

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Nursing Home Bed Rail Safety Petition to CPSC

The Many Faces of Illinois Nursing Home Abuse

Nursing Home Bed Rail Safety Petition to CPSC

Seniors in nursing homes face a mountain of physical, mental, and emotional challenges each and every day. That is why caregivers are there to provide around-the-clock support. On one hand, many resident’s own health is troubling, requiring special equipment to breathe, move, and otherwise complete daily tasks. On top of that, even simple functions–like laying in bed for a night’s sleep–come with injury risks that healthier community members do not face.

One might think that nothing could go wrong when a senior resident is lying in bed. That must be the safest place for them, right? They avoid the risks of wandering or altercations, can be monitored easily by aides, and otherwise do not face any dangers. Not quite. For one thing, a roll off the bed could prove fatal for a resident with frail bones and weaker recovery systems. To prevent falls, many facilities use “bed rails.” These are metal bars placed on the sides of beds to prevent rolling off. But over the past few years, more and more question marks have been raised about the inherent dangers that these rails themselves pose for seniors.

All of this has led many activists to push for stricter standards on the design, manufacture, and use of these rails. Recently, many of those activists, including our team of nursing home neglect lawyers in Illinois, signed a petition urging more action by the United States Consumer Product Safety Commission (CPSC).

Click Here to view and sign.

Bed Rail Injury Prevention
As explained in a recent call to action from the Consumer Voice, the petition calls on the CPSC to “take all necessary action to protect consumers–including a ban on adult portable bed rails.” Alternatively, the call urges the agency to at least require mandatory safety standards. Right now, it is seemingly a free-for-all, with a variety of bed rails being developed and used, many which are very old and dangerously designed.

Sadly, in an attempt to prioritize profit over resident safety, many facilities continue to use whatever is cheapest or does not require them to buy safer products. This results in many vulnerable seniors laying in beds with dangerous traps awaiting them on each side with a false roll.

As we have reported frequently, bed rails can cause serious harm–usually from entrapment and asphyxiation. When a vulnerable senior rolls into one, they may become caught between the metal rail and the mattress. Even simple actions like dislodging oneself from that spot can be impossible for an ailing resident. When not corrected in time by aides, this can cause serious harm, or even suffocation of the resident. Many injuries and deaths have been reported over the years in just this way. In fact, the Consumer Voice reports that as many as 150 seniors may have died and another 37,000 injured as a result of nursing home bed rails in the last ten years alone.

Seniors deserve better than lazy use of “safety” equipment that actually causes them more risk than it protects. We urge to CPSC to take action to spare significant suffering from future elderly nursing home residents.

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Nursing Home Illness Caused By Mattress Infection

The Many Faces of Illinois Nursing Home Abuse

Court Grants Access to Victim’s Medical Records in Nursing Home Abuse Case

Just last week, a South Dakota court granted a nursing home abuse defendant access to the victim’s medical records, according to a news release from the Nursing Home Abuse Center. Heather Lynn Laird, a 36-year-old former employee of the Dell Rapids Nursing and Rehab Center, was indicted last December for felony abuse and neglect of an elderly person. Now, Laird and her attorney have the right to view the victim’s medical records. Laird and her attorney hope that these medical records will prove relevant in the defense.

In January, Laird pled not guilty to the charges against her. Yet her record as a licensed practical nurse (LPN) suggests that this isn’t the first complaint.

Defendant’s History as an LPN Caregiver
In late 2012, the South Dakota Board of Nursing issued an order for summary suspension to temporarily suspend Laird’s nursing license until a hearing to determine whether she could continue to practice as an LPN in the state.

The Board issued this suspension after receiving a complaint from the long-term care facility where Laird had been employed. The complaint indicated that, on “at least five separate occasions,” Laird had been “rude and harsh in her dealing with residents.” In addition, the complaint alerted the Board that Laird “was rough with residents and used profanity toward them.” In each of these cases, Laird’s employer reprimanded her for these incidents and eventually fired her last July.

When the Board receives a complaint like this one, it meets with the accused as part of the investigation. Laird denied all of the accusations. The Board continued its investigation, but before it could meet to make a decision about the status of Laird’s LPN license, it received another complaint from the Dell Rapids Nursing and Rehab Center. This complaint concerned the case for which Laird has been charged with felony abuse and neglect of an elderly person.

Details of the Dell Rapids Case
According to the order issued by the South Dakota Board of Nursing, the complaint from Dell Rapids Nursing and Rehab Center concerns an altercation in which Laird attempted to administer medication to a resident by force. The resident is the alleged victim in the current case against Laird.

In the early morning of November 3, 2012, Laird went into the victim’s room and woke her up to administer medication. When the victim seemed surprised, Laird “forcefully tried to get the medication into her mouth.” When she tried to sit up, Laird allegedly used her knee to hold the victim down, and proceeded to throw water in her face. Laird then “grabbed the resident’s breast and squeezed it tightly, causing a noticeable bruise.”

According to ArgusLeader.com, Laird’s lawyer indicated that if the victim’s medical records show signs of dementia or Alzheimer’s, they could be helpful in Laird’s defense to prove that the victim had been aggressive. And these questions of mental health might extend to the victim’s husband, as well. Laird and her attorney indicated that the husband has a history of violence, and they claim that he might have caused the bruising on the victim.

Judge Patricia Riepel granted Laird’s request for access to the victim’s medical records, explaining that this kind of information is essential to provide at this stage of a case, since both parties are still in discovery.

If you are concerned about an elderly loved one’s safety in a California nursing home or long-term care facility, contact an experienced nursing home abuse attorney today.

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