Recently in Nursing Home Negligence Category

July 24, 2014

Indiana Nursing Home Nurse Has License Revoked After Reporting to Work Intoxicated

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.

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January 14, 2014

Kentucky Jury Finds in Favor of Nursing Home in Nursing Home Arbitration Case

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.

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November 27, 2013

Kentucky's Governor Vows to Take Action to Improve the State's Nursing Home Care

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.

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August 8, 2013

Kentucky Nursing Home Patients Are Moving to Ohio Due to a Shortage of Beds

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.

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April 20, 2013

$90 Million Nursing Home Neglect Judgment Being Challenged

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.

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February 28, 2013

Kentucky Nursing Home Fined by Federal Government for Resident Neglect and Fraud

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.

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February 8, 2013

Proposed Bill Would Require Board Review of Kentucky Nursing Home Lawsuits

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.

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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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July 9, 2012

Heat is Dangerous to Loved Ones in Kentucky Nursing Homes

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.

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July 2, 2012

Wrongful Death Suit Filed Against Kentucky Group Home

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.

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May 29, 2012

Questions and Answers about Arbitration Agreements for Kentucky Residents

1221952_to_sign_a_contract_3.jpgIn a recent case in Florida, a man was infected with flesh-eating bacteria through an infected needle at his doctor's office. Not only did the doctor provide the needle that infected the patient, but he also failed to notify the patient about the infection and did not instruct him to go to the hospital. When the patient tried to file a medical malpractice suit against the doctor, he discovered he had signed an arbitration agreement that prohibited him from filing a lawsuit.

Even though this case was in Florida, this situation could affect Kentucky residents as well. The following are some questions and answers about these arbitration agreements.

Q: What is an arbitration?

A: An arbitration is a hearing used to solve a dispute between two individuals. Rather than being argued in a courtroom before a judge and jury, both sides present their case to a panel of supposedly unbiased arbitrators. Oftentimes the panel is made up of experts selected by both parties.

Q: What is a medical arbitration agreement?

A: A medical arbitration agreement is a document signed by an individual that requires them to handle any dispute with the doctor or medical facility through arbitration rather than filing a lawsuit in court. In the case above, when the patient went to his doctor for a steroid shot, he signed an arbitration agreement saying he could not sue the doctor in court for medical malpractice. It also stated that the patient could not be awarded more than $250,000 in damages if the arbitrators ruled in his favor. This type of limitation may not be binding because it may conflict with state laws regarding caps on damages.

Q: What if I sign a medical arbitration agreement without reading it?

A: While this situation is evaluated on a case-by-case basis, it appears that most courts are upholding the agreements even if the patient states he didn't read it before signing. In the case above, a judge ruled that the agreement is binding even though the patient said he didn't read it because the agreement was clearly written and stated in large letters at the top that one should not sign it without reading it first.

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March 28, 2012

Proposed Bill would Improve Dental Care for Kentucky Nursing Home Residents

When comparing nursing homes as possible residences for a loved one, there are several things to consider. There are logistical details such as how far away the home is from friends and relatives. Financial constraints also play a major factor. But probably the most important thing to consider is the quality of care the person will receive while they reside there.

One aspect of care that is often overlooked by both the family of a nursing home resident and apparently the staff of some facilities is dental hygiene. Part of the daily ritual for the majority of children and adults across the country, oral care seems to be neglected or forgotten in some long-term care facilities. This neglect can lead not only to pain and discomfort for residents, but also to more serious problems. In one case, a Western Kentucky nursing home resident ended up with a gum infection that could have been fatal because the nursing staff didn't remove the person's dentures for six months. A proponent for oral care, Bernie Vonderheide reports "Recent studies have shown that as much as 44 percent of infections in nursing homes, such as deadly pneumonia, are caused by poor oral care."

In an attempt to improve these conditions for all Kentucky nursing home residents, a bill was introduced and has been passed by the House Health and Welfare Committee. Under House Bill 150, the Cabinet for Health and Human Services would work with the University of Louisville and University of Kentucky dental departments to create a program that would provide guidelines for dental health care in long-term care facilities. The program would be paid for by funds collected from nursing homes when they are fined for providing substandard care or putting residents at risk. A nursing assistant for each nursing home would receive training from one of the universities in dental care and would ultimately be responsible for the oral health care of all of the residents in the facility. A test of this system was done at a Lexington KY nursing home with a $25,000 grant from the Dental Trade Alliance Foundation. While the study results are unknown at this time, it appears that information that could be used in future training sessions was created and will be available to anyone interested in using it.

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March 9, 2012

Proposed Kentucky Legislation Regarding Lawsuits against Nursing Homes

On February 1, 2012, state Representative Melvin Henley introduced new legislation that would change the way nursing home abuse and neglect cases would be handled in Kentucky. The proposed legislation, House Bill 361, would require all complaints of abuse or neglect against any long-term care facility to be heard by a medical review panel before the case could proceed to trial.

The medical review panel would be comprised of one attorney and three doctors. The attorney would be agreed upon by the facility and the resident first; then the selected attorney would help them find the physicians. After hearing from both sides, the three physicians would each vote whether or not they thought the claim was valid. The parties could use this information to settle the claim, to drop the charges, or to move forward toward trial, with the medical review panel's opinion as potential evidence.

Proponents of the bill state that it does not prohibit nursing home residents from taking their cases to trial, nor does it limit the amount of damages that could be awarded. They also point to Indiana and Louisiana as states that have seen a drop in liability costs since they adopted the use of medical review panels. They view this as a result of frivolous lawsuits being stopped before they go to trial.

Those who oppose the bill, including AARP of Kentucky and the Kentucky Justice Association think the bill will be detrimental to those seeking justice. Residents or their families that have already been injured or suffered the loss of a loved one because of nursing home neglect or abuse would now have one more hoop to jump through before receiving any compensation they are owed. Those wanting to pursue legal action may have to pay a $100 fee for the medical review board, and adding this extra step will likely delay the final outcome of the case, causing additional emotional and financial stress. "The overall concept of increasing costs and delaying justice for people who are doing nothing wrong" is not appropriate, stated Maresa Fawns, the executive director of the Kentucky Justice Association. She also noted that some studies have shown that the medical review boards tend to vote in favor of the long-term care facilities over the victims.

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February 29, 2012

Family of Kentucky Nursing Home Neglect Victim Awarded $8 Million

A retired doctor was living in Treyton Oak Towers nursing home in Louisville, Kentucky. The resident allegedly suffered from osteoporosis and had a care plan in place regarding how he was to be moved. A care plan is often created by a hospital or physician when a nursing home or assisted living resident requires care that differs from the normal care given by the facility. In this case, the attorney for the resident alleged that his care plan called for two assistants to be used when moving him.

In September 2008, the victim's family claims he was moved by only one person without the use of a lift and that both of his legs were broken during the move. Because he had previously suffered a stroke, he was unable to tell anyone about the pain he was suffering. The lawsuit filed on his behalf stated that the nursing home attempted to cover up the situation and that his broken legs were not discovered until September 24, 2008. He was transferred to a hospital for the broken bones, and was later relocated to a different nursing home. He succumbed to his injuries on November 3, 2008.

While the attorneys for the nursing home tried to convince the jury how much the victim meant to them, and that he was never abused or neglected, the jury still found in favor of the victim, awarding his estate $8 million in damages. Of this total, $1 million was awarded because the nursing home violated Kentucky's nursing home statute. Numerous patient rights are covered by KRS 216.515, the statute that covers the rights of residents and the duties of the facility. The lawsuit in this case may have included the violation of one or more of the following sections:

Section 6 - "All residents shall be free from mental and physical abuse..."

Section 19 - "Every resident and the responsible party...has the right to be fully informed of the resident's medical condition..."

Section 22 - "The resident's responsible party or family member...shall be notified immediately of any accident, sudden illness, disease, unexplained absence, or anything unusual involving the resident."

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January 24, 2012

Kentucky Nursing Home being investigated by Attorney General's Office

Placing a loved one in a nursing home or other long-term care facility can be a difficult decision. As people get older, they are unable to care for themselves, and leaving them in a private home or apartment without supervision can be dangerous. Relocating them to a place where they can receive the assistance and supervision they need can be the right choice. Unfortunately, nursing home residents can encounter dangerous or inappropriate situations as well in the form of abuse or neglect.

The Kentucky Cabinet for Health and Family Services Office is in place to help protect nursing home residents. If the office determines a facility has acted inappropriately, it issues a citation. Citations range in severity, with a Type A citation being the most serious. This citation level is given when a state regulation has been violated and a resident's life or safety has been put in jeopardy. All Type A citations are reported to the Kentucky Attorney General's office, which reviews the citations and determines whether or not the case should be assigned to a prosecutor.

The Kentucky Attorney General's office is currently reviewing a Type A citation that it received regarding Charleston Health Care Center in Danville, Kentucky. The citation is related to two incidents that occurred in the summer of 2011. On July 20th, a resident alleges that he or she was hit on the head, two times on each side, then covered with a pillow. The aide was suspended for two days while the allegation was investigated, but the nursing home and the family of the resident decided the accusation was probably false because of the mental status of the resident. A medical assistant did notice a small bruise on the resident's face that was not there previously, which may lend some credibility to the accusation.

Later that same summer, on August 10th, the same nurse's aide was found curled up in bed next to a patient by a staff member. When the staff member confronted him, he kissed the patient on the cheek and said "no one cared what he did." Two days after this incident, the administration became aware of it and the aide was fired.

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