Articles Posted in Nursing Home Negligence

Published on:

Earlier this month, a registered nurse from Muncie, Indiana lost her license after showing up to work at a hospital and three nursing homes smelling of alcohol.

wheelchair-945156-m.jpgThe Indiana board of nursing revoked the license of Linda Bullinger, age 55, who has a history of alcohol problems dating back several years. In 2008, Bullinger received a suspension from her employer, IU Health Ball Memorial Hospital, after her coworkers reported that she came to work in the emergency unit glassy-eyed and smelling of alcohol. Two months later, she was terminated from her position after being arrested on the basis of driving drunk and resisting arrest.

However, Bullinger was soon back to work in 2009, when she began working at the Edgewater Woods nursing home after entering an agreement with the Indiana State Nurses Assistant Program to take part in a recovery monitoring program. Less than a year into the position, Bullinger was terminated for coming to work smelling of alcohol.
Continue reading →

Published on:

A jury in Madison County recently found that a nursing home patient who died had the capacity to understand the arbitration agreement in the contract that she signed in 2011.

wheelchair-945156-m.jpgNora Chapple died at the age of 80 in the Kenwood Health and Rehabilitation Center in Richmond, where she had lived on two occasions since 2011. After Chapple’s death, her family sued the nursing home for wrongful death, but attorneys representing Extendicare, the company that ran the Kenwood facility during that time, asked the circuit court judge to dismiss the lawsuit because Chapple’s contract required mediation, then arbitration of disputes. Chapple’s family charged that no one else was present when Chapple signed the contract and that she lacked the necessary mental capacity to understand the terms.

During the trial, the family claimed that both times Chapple was admitted to Kenwood, she was heavily medicated due to a broken hip and severe depression. Jurors heard the testimony of Chapple’s physician of 11 years, medical experts, and the administrator who was on hand when Chapple signed the paperwork for admission. After two hours of deliberation, the jury found in favor of the nursing home’s argument that Chapple had capacity to sign the agreement. Now the question remains whether the decision will be appealed to a higher court.
Continue reading →

Published on:

Kentucky’s Governor Steve Beshear has vowed to improve the quality of care in Kentucky nursing homes after the state was ranked 40th out of 50 in states with quality nursing care. In a letter to nursing home advocate, Kentuckians for Nursing Home Reform, Governor Beshear stated that he would call for open forums throughout the state, which would give nursing home residents and the general public the opportunity to make suggestions for improvements. Governor Beshear stated that he would also work with the state’s Elder Abuse Committee to come up with solutions over the coming months, and would ask those who work for the Cabinet for Health and Family Services to determine the impact of increased nursing home staffing in the state.

reading-with-grandmother-in-wheelchair-801960-m.jpgKentucky’s low ranking came from an advocacy group based in Florida called Families for Better Care. The group gave each state a grade from A to F depending upon the quality of their nursing home care, with Kentucky receiving a D. During that time, two other reports have come out that signal the trend of long-term care. One was a 2012 actuarial report issued by Aon Risk Solutions, which states that on average, the care operator of a 100-bed facility pays $154,000 in liability costs each year, but in Kentucky, that average is $535,000 per year.

Advocacy groups have praised Governor Beshear’s willingness to address the problem. One advocate from Kentuckians for Nursing Home Reform stated that the governor’s recommendations for taking action are a “historic first step” toward improving long-term care in Kentucky.
Continue reading →

Published on:

An unfortunate trend is taking place that speaks poorly of Kentucky nursing home care: the state’s nursing home population is moving out of state, to Ohio.

im-still-mobile-1114180-m.jpgKentucky nursing homes suffer a shortage of beds, forcing elderly residents to move north of the Ohio River. The result has been that Ohio taxpayers end up shouldering the cost of Kentucky residents covered by Medicaid, which pays for only 60% of their care. That means that Ohio residents might pay up to $6 million each year. Statistics show that as many as 90% of elderly Kentucky Medicaid patients left the state in 2011, a number that is likely to increase.

Beds are limited in Kentucky nursing homes due to a state mandate that nursing homes undergo a “certificate of need” process, designed to keep Medicaid costs low and ensure that supply is on par with demand. However, the actual result of this practice has been that many Kentucky nursing homes have far fewer beds than people who need them. Three counties in northern Kentucky have only 1,500 beds certified for Medicaid patients, compared to four counties around Cincinnati, which have 12,000 beds for Medicaid patients. Ohio does not require a certification process.
Continue reading →

Published on:

In 2010, a man filed a nursing home neglect lawsuit against a West Virginia nursing home following the death of his mother in 2009. The woman stayed at the facility for 19 days, during which time she allegedly fell several times, was not given enough food or water, and lost 15 pounds. She died 18 days later in Hospice. Based on the information presented during trial, the jury awarded the woman’s estate $91.5 million.

Attorneys for the nursing home asked to have the amount reduced based on a state law that caps non-economic medical malpractice awards at $500,000, but the victim’s attorney argued that nursing homes were not covered by the award cap law. The judge ultimately decided the medical malpractice cap did apply to a small portion of the award and reduced it to $90.5 million. After the verdict and award reduction, defense attorneys still requested a new trial, arguing that the company’s finances were grossly misrepresented during the trial, making it look like its income was much greater than it really is. But the circuit judge denied their request for a new trial, and the case is now headed to the West Virginia Supreme Court.

The defense is hoping to convince the high court that the nursing home is covered by the Medical Professional Liability Act (MPLA), which was enacted in West Virginia in 1986 and amended in 2002 in response to a lack of malpractice coverage available to medical professionals in the state. This law limits the amount a victim can be awarded for non-economic damages in a medical malpractice case. Ever since MPLA was enacted there has much debate on whether or not nursing homes are covered since they are not necessarily medical professionals. The State of West Virginia is in the process of passing a new amendment that specifically includes nursing homes under the MPLA, which proponents of the bill say is what was intended when the original bill was passed over 20 years ago.
Continue reading →

Published on:

Entities have been defrauding the U.S. federal government since the Civil War in 1861. During the war, it was discovered that businessmen were selling defective weapons, sick horses and spoiled food to the government for the soldiers in both the North and the South. To combat these issues, the False Claims Act was enacted in 1863. After several revisions, this act still remains in effect today and is used in cases ranging from businesses fraudulently trying to collect money from the government to manufacturers selling bad products because they were not tested according to government standards.

Health care issues are a frequent cause of cases filed under the False Claims Act, and a case against a Kentucky nursing home that recently settled is a good example of this. Villaspring Health Care and Rehabilitation is a nursing home located in Erlanger, Kentucky. Like most nursing homes, it receives payment for many of the services it supposedly provides from the government through Medicare and Medicaid. However, in 2011, the federal government filed a claim stating that the nursing home was fraudulently collecting money from it.

According to the complaint, the nursing home in question should not have been submitting their bills to Medicare and Medicaid because the care they were providing their nursing home residents was substandard. How substandard? Five people allegedly died at the facility between 2004 and 2008 and more were injured because of the nursing home’s negligence and insufficient care. The case, which was recently settled, is the first of its kind filed against a Kentucky nursing home under the False Claims Act. Advocates for improving care at nursing homes hope that this case and other future ones like it will improve the care at nursing homes and lessen the amount of abuse and neglect that occurs in Kentucky.
Continue reading →

Published on:

Kentucky nursing home abuse and neglect is far too prevalent already. Numerous residents throughout the Commonwealth suffer from bedsores, malnutrition, dehydration, and injuries from improper handling and medication errors. Now the Senate Health and Welfare Committee has approved a proposed bill that may make it harder for victims to file personal injury or wrongful death lawsuits against nursing homes.

Senate Bill 9 would require that any potential nursing home injury or wrongful death lawsuit be heard by a three-person medical panel before it could proceed in court. The panel would be created by both parties, with each party selecting one person and the third being agreed upon by both. The board’s findings would then be admissible in court.

While this seems fair at first, there are foreseeable problems with this arrangement. First, it prolongs the amount of time it takes for a victim to be compensated for injuries or an estate to be compensated for the death of a loved one. Many families need this compensation sooner rather than later for medical bills or funeral expenses. Second, the medical professionals chosen by the victim and by both sides together may still be partial to the nursing home. Some may cast their votes against the victims to ensure that they are not blacklisted at the nursing home and unable to provide services there. There is no financial or professional benefit to being a proponent for a victim of nursing home abuse or neglect.

This seems to be a no-win situation for those who have suffered in a Kentucky nursing home. But there is perhaps a positive side to it. If by chance the medical board would rule in favor of the victim, this information could be very beneficial to the case. Having at least two out of three experts stating the resident’s injuries were caused by the nursing home would make it hard for another expert to dispute in court.
Continue reading →

Published on:

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.
Continue reading →

Published on:

1134491_hot_hot_hot.jpgIt seems as if the majority of the U.S. has been sweltering in record-breaking heat the last couple weeks, and Kentucky residents are no exception. Louisville, Kentucky has had nine days with temperatures over 100 degrees and we are not even to the middle of July yet. It is important for everyone to be careful in this heat. Try not to stay out in the heat for extended periods of time; head for shade as much as possible if you have to be out; drink plenty of fluids; never leave anyone, people or dogs, in cars without the air conditioning running.

This information has been in the newspaper for the last several days. Something else that has been in the paper under this subject is the reminder to check on elderly relatives. While the articles were most likely talking about seniors who live on their own, it is also important to check on those who live in nursing homes or assisted living facilities.

In South Carolina, a nursing home resident died on June 30, 2012. The investigators believe her death was heat related and are awaiting the autopsy report. Family members of the victim said they visited her earlier in the day and the nursing home was hot. They did not see any air-conditioners in any of the rooms. The family went back to the nursing home the day after her death and there were air-conditioners in every room. The county coroner said it appeared that one of the air-conditioning units was not working on the day she died. The nursing home director said it was working but it just could not keep up with the heat. If the autopsy confirms her death was heat related, the family may be able to file a wrongful death suit against the nursing home because it was negligent in taking care of the resident.
Continue reading →

Published on:

There are many Kentucky residents who are unable to live alone, yet don’t need the complete care offered by nursing homes. Assisted living is an option usually offered to senior residents. They live fairly independently in a small apartment or efficiency that is attached to the rest of the facility. They can have meals in the dining hall and their apartments are outfitted with pull cords that can be used if they need help. Younger people, however, tend to live in group homes if they are unable to completely care for themselves. A group home normally houses several adults with various disabilities and is overseen by an employee that lives at the home. Group home residents usually have their own room and are able to maintain some of their independence while being kept safe by the live-in caregiver.

Unfortunately that was not the case for a 35-year-old man who lived in a group home in Paint Lick, Kentucky. He suffered the effects of fetal alcohol syndrome and was unable to live on his own. In June, 2011, he was attacked by the home’s caregiver – the one who was supposed to keep him safe from harm. The 22-year-old caregiver kicked and beat the victim who died from his injuries at a hospital.

The victim’s father has filed a wrongful death lawsuit against the employee who killed the victim and the company that ran the home, which was closed shortly after the incident. The suit claims that Community Ties is guilty of negligence because it “failed, refused or neglected to perform their duties to provide reasonable and adequate care” for the victim. The employee named in the lawsuit has already pleaded guilty to second-degree manslaughter and is awaiting his sentencing. While a guilty or not guilty finding in a criminal case does not always determine the outcome of a civil case, the fact that he pleaded guilty in the criminal case is certainly helpful for the victim’s attorney in the civil case.
Continue reading →