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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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Product recalls on cars are not uncommon. Considering the thousands of parts that go into each car or truck, it is understandable that an issue might arise after the cars have been sold and are being driven on a daily basis. Most issues are found before they cause any major damage or injuries, and recall notices are sent to everyone who owns the cars in question so the problem can be fixed.

A recent Ford recall encompasses thousands of cars built at the Louisville Assembly Plant in Kentucky. Over 8,000 Ford Escapes built at the Fern Valley, Kentucky plant between March and June 2012 have been recalled because of a carpet issue. Misplaced carpet padding could interfere with the driver’s ability to switch from the accelerator to the brake. A Ford spokesperson said the problem was found internally and that no car accidents have been reported as a result of the issue.

While it appears that Ford is handling this current recall properly, that may not be the case in an earlier recall. In December 2004, Ford recalled around 590,000 Ford Escapes and Mazda Tributes because a liner around a cable could interfere with the accelerator and cause it to get stuck. The majority of owners of the cars in question had their cars repaired. Then in October 2005, Ford sent a new set of instructions regarding the previous recall to the dealers telling them to be careful not to damage the cruise control cable during the repair. This information was sent only to the dealers, not to the car owners, so anyone who had already had their cars repaired did not know there might be an additional issue.
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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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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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1119802_bus.jpgOn June 6, 2012, a tour bus carrying over 50 children and adults crashed in Hart County, Kentucky on its way to Washington DC. The driver had only traveled about seven miles with the passengers on board when the bus accident occurred. While the accident investigation has not been completed, it appears that the driver was speeding and lost control of the bus around a tight curve. The bus rolled over, causing multiple injuries that were fortunately not life-threatening.

Why would a driver speed around a tight curve, especially in a large tour bus? Some passengers said he was overconfident, refusing to slow down even when several of them warned him to reduce his speed because of the curvy road. Others said he had been drinking energy drinks that may have clouded his judgment. Another reason may have been because he had already driven eight hours from Chicago and he may have been too tired to realize how fast he was traveling.

Whatever the reason, it appears he was speeding, risking the lives of at least 50 other people. As a result, three families have joined together and filed a lawsuit. One child from each family was involved in the bus crash and their families believe someone should be held accountable. They have sued the driver of the bus, the bus company – Southwestern Illinois Bus Company – and Worldstrides International. The claim against the driver is fairly self-explanatory since he was the one that was operating the bus when it ran off the road and his negligence most likely contributed to the accident.

The bus company may be partially liable for the accident for a couple of reasons. It could be responsible if it is determined that the driver lacked enough experience to be driving the bus. Also, if any maintenance issues played a part in the accident, the company could be held accountable. The lawsuit alleges that the driver had already driven eight hours from Chicago to Kentucky and was setting out to drive an additional eight hours to Washington DC. If this is true and the company asked him to drive both routes without resting, it would be in violation of the federal law that states commercial bus drivers can only drive 11 hours at a time. Worldstrides International is the company that organized the trip. Its website ironically claims it is “the nation’s largest and most respected accredited travel organization” and that its “programs are marked by exceptional service, a superior safety record, and a personalized approach to educational travel that is unmatched in the field.” If they contracted with the bus company that employed the driver that caused the accident, they could be partially liable for the accident too.
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1237145_dentiststs_tools.jpgFor those who already dread a trip to the dentist, here is one more reason to avoid making the appointment. According to a woman from Jessamine County, her dentist dropped a tool in her mouth and she reflexively swallowed it.

According to a medical malpractice lawsuit filed in Fayette Circuit Court in Kentucky, the woman was having part of her dentures cleaned when the tool allegedly slipped out of the dentist’s hand. The dentist encouraged her to attempt to regurgitate it, which she was unable to do. The patient claims the dentist told her to have a chiropractor take and x-ray, so she did and brought them back to him. The dentist then told her to eat a lot of fiber and allow the tool, which the lawsuit describes as a screwdriver, to pass naturally.

About 30 days later, the tool had still not appeared and she was experiencing some pain, so the woman went to Saint Joseph’s hospital and ended up having to have an appendectomy to have it removed. The lawsuit filed on her behalf claims the dentist was negligent because he did not have the tool secured in any way and he allowed it to drop down her throat. The dentist’s response to the lawsuit says the tool was not a screwdriver, that he did not lose control during the procedure, and that he encouraged her to go to the University of Kentucky emergency room, but the patient refused.

The lawsuit, which the dentist would obviously like to have dismissed, is asking for damages for several reasons. Compensation for pain and suffering is commonly requested in medical malpractice lawsuits. The patient in this case had to endure abdominal pain, surgery, and a recovery that all would not have occurred if the tool had not been dropped into her during the procedure. Her suffering may also include mental distress from worrying about the tool being lodged in her and what damage it might be causing. She has also requested money to cover the medical bills that resulted from having the x-rays done and her surgery and stay in the hospital. The lawsuit also claims that her ability to work and make money was also affected by the dentist’s negligence. Even though she was 71 years old when the suit was filed, it is entirely possible that she was still working at the time of the incident because she needed the income.
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Two people lost their lives in a tragic Memorial Day accident in Ohio County, Kentucky. The driver of the car that held six other passengers left the road to one side, then swerved and left the other side of the road. The car rolled over and landed in the median. Two of the passengers were thrown from the vehicle during the car wreck and were pronounced dead at the scene. The other people were taken to several different hospitals by ambulance or helicopter. The driver, who was intoxicated when the car accident occurred around 7:00 a.m. Monday morning, faces numerous charges including DUI, two counts of manslaughter and four counts of assault.

It was determined that the two passengers who died at the scene were not wearing their seatbelts at the time of the car crash. While it cannot be proven, it is highly possible that they may still be alive today, like the other passengers in the car, if they had been wearing their seatbelts. Also, if their families decided to file a claim with the driver’s insurance company or wanted to take legal action against the driver, the fact that they were not wearing their seatbelts could affect the amount of compensation they received. If someone is found to be partially responsible for their own injuries or death, the percentage of the fault determined to be theirs may be deducted from any damages awarded by a court or claim money from an insurance company. So it is in your best interest to always wear your seatbelt when on the road.

While this accident was being cleared and investigated, traffic was stopped on William Natcher Parkway for some time. Unfortunately a driver who was approaching the scene didn’t realize traffic was stopped because he allegedly fell asleep at the wheel. He rear-ended someone in front him, pushing that car into a police officer assisting with the original accident. The officer was taken to the hospital with what were hopefully minor injuries.

While not nearly as tragic, this second accident illustrates a couple of driving issues. First, falling asleep at the wheel can be very dangerous both for the drowsy drivers and those around them. If you are feeling fatigued, pull over and let someone else drive. Or if you are driving alone, stop and take a rest before continuing on the road. Fortunately no one appears to have been seriously injured by this sleep driver, but that is not always the case.
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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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A recent Kentucky truck accident involved multiple vehicles and cars, most of whom were not even from the area. On May 22, 2012, traffic on I-24 over the Ohio River near Paducah was moving slowly due to some construction. One driver did not slow or stop in time and rear-ended the car in front of him. Both of these drivers survived the accident with only minor injuries.

Unfortunately, this initial car accident led to another more deadly accident in the same area. Traffic was backed up from the initial accident in both westbound lanes when semi driver reached the scene. He allegedly did not slow down or stop. He hit the mirror on a pickup truck first, then crashed into a motorcycle. Both people were knocked off the motorcycle. The truck driver then hit another semi before coming to a stop. Both truck drivers were taken to the hospital with minor injuries. The motorcycle riders were not so lucky; they were pronounced dead at the scene.

This accident was very tragic in that it claimed the lives of two innocent victims. It was also very unusual because almost every person involved was from a different state and no one was a Kentucky resident. The truck driver who allegedly caused the accident was from Wisconsin. The two motorcycle riders were from North Carolina and Texas. The pickup truck and second semi-truck drivers were both from Illinois. This raises the question of where a lawsuit, if necessary, should be filed.

Generally, lawsuits are filed in the state in which the accident occurred. We’ll use the above case as an example. The accident happened in Kentucky, so a lawsuit should be filed in Kentucky. Most attorneys are licensed to practice law in one or two states that are in close proximity to each other. So it is unlikely that an attorney from Texas or North Carolina – the home states of the victims in this accident – would be able to file a wrongful death lawsuit in Kentucky. It is also unlikely that the victims’ families would know any Kentucky attorneys.
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Norton Hospital is located in Louisville, Kentucky and serves thousands of Kentucky residents every year. Medtronic is a large medical device company located in Fridley, Minnesota. What these two companies have in common is a medical malpractice lawsuit that has been filed against them.

A Louisville, Kentucky woman had surgery on her spine in 2006 at Norton Hospital. The hospital used a product from Medtronic called Infuse. Infuse is a bone-graft device used in certain spinal surgeries. A liquid bone protein is put on a sponge in a little crate between vertebrae. The liquid then solidifies into bone. The patient was having spine surgery, but not the type that Infuse has been approved for by the Food and Drug Administration (FDA). Surgeons at the hospital used it in her procedure anyway.
Unfortunately, as has been the situation in other cases, the bone continued to grow into her nerves, causing damage that has resulted in debilitating pain. She now has to stay in bed for extended periods of time and has trouble doing simple everyday tasks.

When a product is promoted and used in a way that has not been approved by the FDA, it is called “off-label” use, since what the medical professional is using it for would not actually be printed on the label of the medication or medical device. Oftentimes, medical professionals successfully use off-label treatments with the patient’s consent. Other times it may lead to a dangerous treatment. However, companies such as Medtronic are not allowed to promote the product for off-label use. They can be fined millions of dollars if it is determined that this illegal activity has occurred. Unfortunately, to a multi-billion dollar company that could make billions on off-label use of one drug, the risk of investigation and fines may seem worthwhile. The off-label marketing can occur in many ways, including providing the product free to hospitals and medical offices or giving price breaks on other products to medical professionals that use a certain product off-label.
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