December 14, 2012

Recall Scheduled to Occur in February 2013 on Certain Honda Models

It seems as if product recalls on cars are becoming more and more common. It is hard to say whether it is because cars are not being made as well as they used to be, or if the manufacturers are trying to protect themselves and their consumers by issuing the recalls more readily. The latest big recall hasn't even officially happened yet, but it has been announced through the media.

In February 2013, Honda is scheduled to announce to the recall of over 800,000 vehicles in the U.S. and about 70,000 in other countries. In October 2012, the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) announced that it was going to begin investigating Honda Pilots and Odysseys that were manufactured in 2003 and 2004. The investigation was prompted by the NHTSA receiving over 40 complaints regarding the vehicles. Drivers stated that the vehicles rolled away after being parked and having the keys removed. Owners of 16 of them said the only reason they stopped rolling was because they hit a stationary object such as a tree, wall, or brick mailbox. At least three vehicle owners claimed to have been injured trying to stop the rolling vehicles. Two months after the investigation was opened, Honda announced that they were going to recall 2003-2004 Honda Pilots and Odysseys, and 2003-2006 Acura MDXs.

What is causing these vehicles to roll away by themselves? It is not a brake failure as one might expect. Ignitions are designed so that the driver cannot remove the key unless the vehicle is in park. However, on the recalled models, the ignition part that prohibits the key from being removed can wear down or be damaged, allowing the key to be removed without the car being put into park. If the emergency brake has not been applied, the vehicle is free to roll away.

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December 7, 2012

Black Boxes in Cars Help Determine Cause of Kentucky Car Accidents, But Do They Infringe on Privacy?

257706_black_box_series.jpgMost of us are familiar with the "black boxes" on airplanes. Unlike the photo attached here, the black boxes on planes are small data recording devices. When a plane crashes or has to make an emergency landing, the black box on board is used to determine what went wrong by linking it to a computer and downloading its data. This is especially helpful if there are no witnesses or survivors to interview, which unfortunately happens frequently in plane crashes.

But how many of us realize that these black boxes are in many of the cars we drive? Officially called "event data recorders," these devices record dozens of different data, from the speed of the car to whether or not the driver or passengers were wearing seatbelts. The National Transportation Safety Board (NTSB) is supposed to be proposing a new regulation that would require the black boxes to be installed on all new vehicles.

NTSB has been trying to enact this rule unsuccessfully for almost a decade because people fear the black boxes will infringe on their privacy. Likening the recorders to "Big Brother," one Representative said, "Privacy is a big concern for many across America."

No matter what your beliefs are regarding the privacy issue, it is hard to deny the usefulness of having a large amount of pre-accident data available when determining what caused a car crash. In an effort to avoid fault, many drivers will stretch the truth or outright lie about how fast they were going or whether they attempted to stop or not, or they may try to place the blame on a malfunction of the car. Such was the case in a Louisville, Kentucky car crash that happened in August 2009. A man was test-driving a car at a high rate of speed when he crashed into another car and killed two people. He claimed that he was only going 60 mph before the crash, but the black box had recorded a pre-crash speed of 102 mph, more than twice the posted speed limit of 45 mph. He was found guilty of second-degree manslaughter and is currently serving a five-year sentence.

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November 29, 2012

Louisville Police Change High-Speed Chase Policy to Keep Kentucky Drivers Safer

240373_police_car_-_louisville_kentuc.jpgThe goal of all police officers is to keep the general public safe. Sometimes this means pursuing those who have committed crimes. But at what point does it become more hazardous to the public to attempt to catch the offender than letting the offender get away?

High-speed police chases have been the subject of debate for years. About the time it fades into the background, another innocent bystander or police officer is injured during the pursuit of justice. In Louisville, Kentucky, the latest victim of this type of car accident was a 31-year-old mother of three. She was on her lunch break from her job when she was killed by a driver trying to evade police in October 2012. Even though police say the high-speed chase lasted less than one minute, it was still long enough to take the woman's life.

On November 28, 2012, Steven Conrad, the Police Chief in Louisville announced a new high-speed pursuit policy to be followed by all LMPD officers. Starting December 7, 2012, officers will only be allowed to pursue at high speeds those who have committed a violent crime. This type of crime includes arson, rape, murder, robbery or kidnapping.

How does this differ from the previous policy? Before, police officers were given less guidance as to when to pursue an alleged felon at high speeds. There were rules as to the conditions of the roads and the likelihood of injuries, but who they were to pursue was a little vague. In the case mentioned above, the person being chased was allegedly involved in some type of drug crime, which by itself would not be a violent felony.

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November 20, 2012

Midland Texas Train Crash a Tragedy

One cannot look online or read a newspaper without seeing an article about the tragic accident in Midland, Texas. Numerous war veterans and their spouses were riding on a parade float being pulled by a semi-truck when it was hit by a train. Four veterans lost their lives and several other people were injured. As the victims and their families try to put their lives back together, investigators are trying to determine what caused this tragic accident.

One of the things they will examine is the train itself. Was it working properly? Did the horn sound at the appropriate time, at the right volume, for the length of time required? Were the brakes and other components of the train in working order? They will question the conductors and engineers who were on board when the train crash occurred about what they witnessed and if they noticed anything that may have contributed to the crash.

Investigators will also examine the tracks and crossing gates. Initial reports are stating that the lights were flashing and the crossing gate bells were ringing before the truck attempted to cross the tracks. But witnesses say they don't think the crossing signals and gates are activated soon enough to allow enough time for the gates to be completely down before the train crosses the intersection. News reports have discussed that the speed of the trains at this crossing has increased over the years, and maybe the gates have not been adjusted to take this change into account.

The investigators will also thoroughly investigate the truck that was pulling the float when the accident occurred. The truck was donated by a local Texas company and was driven by a fellow military veteran. The driver of the truck will be interviewed and his background will be checked to make sure he had the proper training to be driving the truck. He will most likely be asked if he heard the warning bells at the crossing or saw the flashing lights or gates. The company that owned the truck will be questioned as well.

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November 13, 2012

Latest Fatal Kentucky Drunk Driving Accident Kills Motorcyclist in Louisville

Yet another Kentuckian has lost his life to a drunk driver in a car accident this year. On November 5, 2012, a motorcyclist was rear-ended by a drunk driver while waiting for red light to change in Louisville, Kentucky. He was taken to a local hospital, but died from his injuries. The drunk driver also crashed into another car, causing it to hit a fourth vehicle. Fortunately, none of the people in these cars suffered life-threatening injuries.

What made this motorcycle accident even more horrible was the nonchalance in which the drunk driver responded to causing the crash. According to a witness, he got out of his car and demanded that someone give him a light for a cigarette. He then told police, "Just take me to jail, I'm drunk." He never once asked about the conditions of any of the people he had hit. Equally frustrating is the fact that this was not his first offense. He was convicted of DUI in 2005 and has a criminal record that includes reckless driving, marijuana possession and alcohol intoxication. This time he was charged with murder, DUI, wanton endangerment, assault, and driving without insurance.

Ideally, the penalty he receives from this latest accident would be severe enough to convince him never to drink and drive again. But this may not be the case. Despite the fact that drunk drivers injure and kill people on a daily basis, the laws and punishments do not seem to be enough to keep it from happening again. One additional way the drunk driver may be punished is if any of the injured victims or the family of the deceased victim decides to file a personal injury or wrongful death lawsuit against him. They can seek compensation for lost wages, medical bills, funeral expenses, and pain and suffering, among other things. They can also request another type of compensation called punitive damages. This type of damages is meant to punish the alleged defendant for his actions in the hopes that he will not drive drunk again.

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November 7, 2012

Indiana Residents Still at Risk for Meningitis Infection from Tainted Steroid Shots

On Monday, November 5, 2012, the Indiana State Department of Health announced that 51 Indiana residents have been infected with fungal meningitis and the death toll rose to four victims. Nationwide, the total number of people sickened stands at 409, and 30 people have died.

How did this epidemic start? Investigators are not sure how the tainting occurred, but they do know that the drugs were manufactured at a drug company in Massachusetts called the New England Compounding Center. The contaminated drugs are steroids that are injected in patients to help relieve pain. The majority of the people who have fallen ill were suffering from chronic back pain and the drug was injected into their spine to provide some relief. An additional 10 people who had the injections in other places, such as hips or elbows have contracted peripheral joint infections, but there have been no deaths reported.

In an attempt to figure out how this happened, Congress has subpoenaed one of the owners of the drug company. Attorneys representing the drug company are saying there are too many differing state and federal laws regarding pharmacies and drug manufacturers and that their client has done nothing wrong. In the meantime, the number of lawsuits continues to grow.

In Indiana, at least one wrongful death lawsuit has been filed by the family of a man who died after receiving an injection that was contaminated by a fungus. They hope that the lawsuit will answer the question of how these dangerous drugs were able to be sold and administered to patients, including their lost loved one. They are seeking compensatory damages for lost income, loss of companionship, and medical and burial expenses. The lawsuit also request punitive damages, which are commonly included in medical malpractice and wrongful death cases. This type of damages is meant to cost the company or individual at fault enough additional expense to deter them from acting in a similar manner in the future. In this case, the drug company, if it is even allowed to reopen for business, will hopefully determine what caused the contamination and take whatever measures are necessary to keep this type of outbreak from occurring again.

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October 2, 2012

Louisville, Kentucky School Bus Accident Sends 51 Students to Local Hospitals

In 1999, the TV show "ER" staged a school bus crash in which the bus overturned near the train tracks in downtown Chicago. Students who were able climbed out of the emergency exit while others awaited medical assistance inside. Some train passengers that rode by the scene while it was being filmed were horrified by what they saw, until other passengers informed them it wasn't real.

Unfortunately, on September 28, 2012, the school bus accident that neighbors and passersby witnessed on Lower River Road in Louisville, Kentucky was not a set for a TV show. It really occurred, and numerous children were injured. It appears that a car with three high school students inside did not stop at the stop sign. Their car hit the bus hard enough that it was knocked over, sending 48 middle school children flying inside the bus. All three students in the car and all of the bus riders were taken to local hospitals, although some of those from the bus were taken more as a precaution than as a result of actual injuries. The only person involved in the bus wreck that did not go to the hospital was the driver of the bus.

This scenario begs the question: Why aren't school buses equipped with seat belts? The fact that the three people in the car had to go to the hospital makes sense because of the vast difference in size between the bus and the car. But because the bus driver who had a seat belt was the only one who wasn't taken to the hospital, it makes one wonder if fewer bus riders would have been injured if they had been wearing seat belts. Some states do require seat belts on certain buses, but it is not a requirement in Indiana or Kentucky.

The National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) addresses this question on its website. It states that about 42,000 people are killed in car accidents in the U.S. each year, but approximately six children are killed when riding in school buses. The sheer size of a full-size school bus allegedly keeps the children safer than a regular car. In addition, the seats are placed close together and have high, cushioned backs to protect children in the event of a crash.

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September 18, 2012

Senior Kentucky Drivers Face Fewer Obstacles When Renewing Licenses

A recent article from the Associated Press regarding senior drivers has been making the rounds both online and in local newspapers. It discusses how various states handle senior drivers differently, even starting with at what age a person is considered an "older" or "senior" driver. Common precautions taken with giving senior drivers permission to continue driving include eye exams and shorter expiration dates on drivers' licenses. The article points out that while younger drivers in their teens and twenties cause more car crashes than senior drivers, that may be because older drivers do not drive as much, by choice, and also may avoid driving in the dark and if it is raining or snowing.

State officials may have a hard time setting driving limits for seniors because someone's driving ability may not be commensurate with their age. A 65-year-old driver that has no major medical issues will be less likely to cause an accident than someone of the same age that suffers from memory loss or vision issues, or who is on multiple medications that may impair judgment or response time.

Many states have tried though. In Virginia, drivers over 80 can still keep their licenses for eight years like everyone else in the state, but they must renew their license in person and take an eye exam. Older Florida drivers have to renew every six years instead of eight and have an eye exam when they turn 80. California requires their drivers to submit to a vision test and a written test when they want to renew their licenses over the age of 70.

Some of these state laws have changed in response to accidents or personal injury lawsuits. In Massachusetts, the law changed in 2010 to require anyone over 75 to renew their license in person and have an eye exam. The reason? In 2009, an 88-year-old ran over a 4-year-old and killed the child. However, in New Hampshire, drivers are no longer subjected to mandatory road tests over the age of 75 because an 86-year-old driver said it was a form of discrimination in 2011.

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September 14, 2012

Kentucky DUI Accidents Costs One Man His Life, Another Man Seven Years in Prison

In February every year, Superbowl parties abound, in Kentucky, Indiana, and across the nation. Friends and relatives get together to enjoy the game, the commercials, food and drinks. Unfortunately for one Kentucky resident this past February, his friend enjoyed the drinks at a Superbowl party too much.

On February 5, 2012, a Tennessee resident came to Louisville to enjoy the game with some friends. After the game was over, he and a friend got in his Corvette. While on I-71, the driver lost control of the car, which ended up rolling on its top, injuring himself and killing his passenger in the car crash. It was determined that the driver had been speeding and was driving under the influence. Each of these factors alone makes it more difficult to maintain control of a vehicle; added together, they can be deadly.

At the beginning of September, 2012, the driver was convicted of wanton endangerment and driving under the influence. While his attorney asked the judge to sentence him to probation, the judge handed down a seven-year prison sentence, with a chance for shock probation in 30 to 180 days. The prosecution had argued that probation did not seem like a harsh enough punishment for killing another person. He also stated that the driver was a repeat DUI offender and would likely drive under the influence again without the proper punishment.

The prosecutor's belief that the driver would incur future DUIs was most likely based on the fact that he had been charged with DUI at least three other times in Kentucky since the 1980s and he faced drug-related charges at some point. Should the victim's family decide to pursue a civil lawsuit against the driver, they could request punitive damages, which would be an amount above and beyond what would be awarded for lost income, pain and suffering, and loss of a loved one. Punitive damages are awarded strictly to punish the defendant for his actions and to deter him from acting the same in the future. The fact that he was convicted in the criminal case would make it more likely that a judge would rule against him in a civil wrongful death as well.

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September 7, 2012

Woman Files Medical Malpractice Lawsuit against Hospital That Didn't Treat Her

In an unusual twist in the world of medical malpractice law, a woman from Kansas has filed a lawsuit against a hospital in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania that never provided her medical treatment, and that she has most likely never even seen. The woman was admitted to the Hays Medical Center in Kansas in 2010 for treatment at the heart center.

She needed a pacemaker. She encountered numerous medical personnel during her admission, never suspecting one might give her an incurable disease.
In August 2012, the patient received notice from the Kansas hospital that one of their former employees had hepatitis C, that she may have been infected during her pacemaker procedure, and that she should be tested. The test came back positive. She and her husband have now filed a medical malpractice lawsuit against the University of Pittsburgh Medical Center (UPMC) and two staffing companies. How they came to sue a hospital in Pittsburgh over something that happened in Kansas is something one might expect to see on TV crime show.

Before coming to Kansas, a medical technician who worked at UPMC allegedly was stealing narcotics for his own personal use. He was caught with a syringe in his pants and was terminated in 2008. The hospital did not alert the police because they did not think there was enough evidence against him to press charges. The man went on to work at hospitals in several other states before finally being arrested in July, 2012 in New Hampshire. Along the way, he contracted hepatitis C and is accused of infecting 31 people at a New Hampshire hospital with the disease while attempting to steal fentanyl. After his arrest, every patient he might have come into contact with was notified that they may be infected.

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September 5, 2012

Kentucky Drivers Not Used to Driving in Rain Cause Multiple Car Accidents

1200812_water_drops.jpgLabor Day, according to the United States Department of Labor "is dedicated to the social and economic achievements of American workers." Many Americans celebrate the weekend with friends and family around the grill or the neighborhood pool, enjoying the last few days of summer. Unfortunately, Hurricane Isaac made outdoor celebrating a little trickier for Kentucky residents this year with heavy rains and the occasional thunderstorm. Based on the number of car accidents reported, it also made driving more difficult.

In 24 hours between Sunday and Monday evening, almost 80 car accidents occurred just in Lexington, with 17 of the crashes causing injury to at least one person. In Rockcastle County, there were five related wrecks on I-75 that involved 12 vehicles and shut down the highway for miles. And tragically, a motorcycle rider was killed in Louisville, Kentucky when he lost control of his motorcycle on the wet pavement on a curvy stretch of Brownsboro Road. He had returned from serving in the military in Saudi Arabia only 24 hours before the crash.

What caused all of these accidents, and what can be done to make Kentucky roads safer for drivers when the pavement is wet or it is raining? According to police involved in the cleanup of the 12-car accident scene in Rockcastle County, people were not paying attention. When it is raining outside, it is even more important to not be distracted while driving because wet roads may make it harder to stop and visibility may be reduced. An increase in traffic due to the holiday weekend may have worsened the situation. When more people are on the road, there are simply more cars to crash into. So drivers need to slow down, shut off their cell phones or radios, and stop trying to multi-task in the car when roadways are wet.

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August 30, 2012

Salmonella in Cantaloupes Leads to Indiana Product Recall and Lawsuit

800031_cantaloupe.jpgFarm-grown fruits and vegetables are supposed to be the healthiest foods to eat, far surpassing the processed foods that frequently fill our pantries and freezers. But sometimes, even fresh food can cause illness. Cantaloupes grown in Indiana and sold in July 2012 are thought to be the cause of over 178 cases food poisoning. The illnesses span 21 states, and two people have died. At least 50 of the cases were in Kentucky.

One farm has been identified by the FDA as producing the tainted cantaloupes - Chamberlain Farms in Owensville, Indiana. Even though the farm voluntarily recalled all of their cantaloupes, the FDA issued a formal product recall of the fruit on August 22, 2012 to make people more aware of the situation.

At least one lawsuit has been filed in the outbreak. A mother from Michigan claims she bought three of the tainted cantaloupes from Walmart. Both of her daughters ate the melon and contracted salmonella, which causes fever, abdominal cramping, and diarrhea. People can become severely dehydrated and some even die. This woman's daughters both required a doctor's care and emergency room visits, and one daughter was hospitalized for four days. Her attorney has filed a lawsuit on the family's behalf against Chamberlain Farms in Indiana and the Walmart that sold the melons. It claims that the family has incurred over $25,000 in medical bills.

This outbreak is similar to the one that occurred in September 2011 with cantaloupes. In that case, the cantaloupes were from Colorado and were tainted with listeria, which causes illness similar to salmonella. The attorney handling the recent lawsuit also represents 42 families that were allegedly affected by the listeria outbreak. He states that he is surprised that another outbreak has occurred because he "would have expected farmers, distributors and retailers to have better food safety procedures in place this year to prevent another cantaloupe-related outbreak from happening."

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August 22, 2012

Curbside Buses may be Unsafe for Kentucky Residents

Curbside buses - so named because they pick up and drop off passengers on the roadside instead of in a terminal - have been in the news a lot lately because they have been involved in several serious accidents. A 2011 bus crash killed 15 people in New York, and a driver and passenger were killed in another bus accident in New Jersey two days later. In May, 2012, numerous curbside bus companies were shut down, including three that operated out of Indiana, because of safety concerns.

On August 2, 2012, another curbside bus crashed into a bridge support in Illinois, killing one passenger and injuring several others. It is possible the crash was caused by a blown tire, but the investigation is still ongoing. The bus was run by megabus.com and was traveling from Chicago to Kansas City, Missouri with a couple stops along the way.

Why are these buses so dangerous? In some cases, the fault lies with the bus drivers. Many of the companies hire drivers that do not have valid commercial driver's licenses, which means they lack the proper training to safely operate a large vehicle like a bus. Some hire drivers that have been fired by other companies because of safety violations. Oftentimes the drivers operate the buses longer than they federal laws allow, causing them to become too fatigued to drive the bus safely.

The buses themselves can also contribute to accidents if they are not properly maintained and operated. Investigators in the August 2, 2012 bus crash are most likely checking the maintenance records of the bus to verify that the blown tire did not occur because of improper maintenance. In Georgia, Megabus has stopped using their double-decker buses until they are all thoroughly inspected. Bus companies, including Megabus, received warnings from the Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration regarding the importance of the load on the bus and its relation to tire pressure. Companies need to properly load passengers and cargo, being careful not to exceed the weight limit. They also need to increase tire pressure if the bus is at capacity. These commercial buses are now being randomly selected to be weighed at weigh stations to make sure they are not over the limit.

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August 8, 2012

Victim Awarded $5.5 Million in Medical Malpractice Lawsuit over Mesh Implant

Advances in medical technology are amazing and can provide great benefits to patients. Unfortunately, sometimes the products created to help people can end up causing more harm than good. In this type of situation, victims can seek compensation not only from the doctors or hospitals involved in the procedure, but also the company that created and marketed the product.

One medical product that is under intense scrutiny right now is a mesh that is implanted in various parts of the abdominal area to treat bulging organs, called pelvic organ prolapse (POP), or incontinence due to weakened tissues around certain organs. In 2011, the FDA updated its report on the use of vaginal mesh implants. The update states that serious complications are more frequent than initially thought and that it is unclear whether surgery that includes the mesh implant is any more effective than the traditional method. Between 2008 and 2010, the FDA received 2,874 reports regarding medical issues associated with the vaginal mesh implants including "mesh erosion through the vagina (also called exposure, extrusion or protrusion), pain, infection, bleeding,...dyspareunia,...organ perforation, urinary problems... recurrent prolapse, neuro-muscular problems, vaginal scarring/shrinkage, and emotional problems." In January, 2012, the FDA told numerous manufacturers of this product to perform a three-year study to confirm it is safe and effective.

Hundreds of victims have filed medical malpractice lawsuits claiming these implants are causing additional medical issues. One case has already gone to trial and been decided by a jury. The victim had claimed that her vaginal mesh implant that had been manufactured by C.R. Bard Inc. caused chronic pain and incontinence and that she had endured nine surgeries to try to fix the problems caused by the implant. The lawsuit, which was filed against both the manufacturer and the doctor who performed the surgery, alleged that the company had not thoroughly tested the product before selling it, despite the fact that the FDA had approved it. The jury determined that the manufacturer was 60 percent responsible and the doctor was 40 percent responsible. The victim and her husband were awarded $5.5 million for pain and suffering, medical expenses, and loss of consortium.

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July 31, 2012

Company Faces Numerous Kentucky Nursing Home Wrongful Death, Negligence Suits

In the spring of 2012, Extendicare, a company that operated 21 nursing homes in Kentucky, stated its intent to lease all of the homes to a Texas company. Their reasons were that too many lawsuits were filed against them in Kentucky and that the state was not looking into tort reform to limit the amount of damages a plaintiff could be awarded in a nursing home abuse or negligence case.

Because of the number of lawsuits filed against just one of their long-term care facilities, Kenwood Health and Rehabilitation in Madison County, it is understandable why they would want to no longer operate this Kentucky nursing home. But based on the information reported by the Richmond Register, we think the high number of lawsuits is not because Kentuckians are more likely to file cases, but rather that the company was providing substandard care to its residents. The accusations of the five wrongful death lawsuits and one negligence suit filed in 2012 read like a laundry list of signs of nursing home abuse and neglect.

The first wrongful death case states the victim had bed sores, infections, was injured by falling, was malnourished and dehydrated, and eventually died. The second case also suffered from malnutrition and dehydration, but was also not treated promptly for a broken hip and was not given proper medication. Her suit alleges that the lack of proper care caused her health to deteriorate more quickly and led to an earlier death. Case number three says a resident's health was allowed to decline at the nursing home so drastically that he ended up in intensive care in a hospital with sepsis, dehydration, and renal failure, and he passed away 43 days later. The other cases allege similar neglect at the nursing home and two of the three victims have died. The last resident still lives at the facility.

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