Articles Posted in Nursing Home Abuse

Mary Stevens, 57, was an Alzheimer’s disease victim who also had uncontrolled diabetes.  She was admitted to Eastern Pines Convalescent Center for just eleven days when she suffered a hypoglycemic shock and was transferred to a nearby hospital.

A week later,  Stevens died, reportedly from the hypoglycemia.  Hypoglycemia is a condition caused by low blood sugar or glucose in the body’s bloodstream. Glucose is the body’s main energy source.  Hypoglycemia is commonly a condition that is found in individuals who are being treated for diabetes. Hypoglycemia is not a disease by itself, but it’s an indicator of a health problem or illness. It is like a fever is to the flu. 

Stevens was survived by her two adult children. On behalf of the family, one of the daughters sued the nursing home’s owner, claiming wrongful death.  The lawsuit alleged that the nursing home and staff were negligent and violated the applicable state nursing home regulations. 

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Joseph Roberts was 47 years old when he was admitted to the Carriage Hill Health and Rehabilitation Center for a two-month period after he suffered a broken leg. Roberts had a variety of health problems, including stroke-related paralysis. That condition required Roberts to use a wheelchair. He also smoked — against nursing home policy — during this admission. He ignored staff members’ warnings not to smoke and did it anyway. 

When Roberts was hospitalized several months after his admission to Carriage Hill, he requested that he be readmitted. Carriage Hill approved the second admission. However, Roberts continued to smoke during his time at the nursing home facility.

One early morning, a nursing facility aide took Roberts outside and left him there alone to smoke. When the aide returned, she found that Roberts was on the ground with his clothes on fire. 

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A 77-year-old male was admitted to a health and rehabilitation center to recover after a fall. Within a couple of months, he developed Stage IV pressure sores on his lower back.  A short time later he passed away because of sepsis related to the infected bed sores.  The resident was survived by his wife and three adult children. 

The family of the resident sued the nursing home’s owner, claiming that the nursing home and its employees and staff chose not to provide the necessary wound care, which included timely repositioning. The negligence lawsuit claimed that the defendant nursing home falsified its records, particularly with respect to the wound care for this nursing home resident. The case was submitted to arbitration, which returned an award for the family for damages in the amount of $375,000.

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In the recent case of Vincent v. Alden-Park Strathmoor, Inc., No. 110406, 2011 WL 1077706 (Ill.Sup.Ct.), the Supreme Court reviewed the nursing home malpractice lawsuit to determine whether or not punitive damages are allowed in the event that the wronged party is deceased. The Vincent case was filed by the family members of Majorie Vincent, an elderly resident of Alden-Park Strathmoor, after Majorie died while living at the long-term nursing facility.

Majorie’s family filed a complaint under the Illinois Nursing Home Care Act, which alleged that Alden-Park had violated the Act through its negligent and abusive treatment of Majorie. The complaint specifically accused Alden-Park of failing to provide Majorie with adequate medical and personal care and was willful and want in its conscious and reckless disregard of her health and safety.

In its complaint, the plaintiffs reserved the right to seek punitive damages, which are damages awarded as punishment for the defendant’s willful and wanton behavior. And while the plaintiffs did not seek the damages in their original complaint, they did reserve the right to do so at a later date. However, the defendants brought a motion seeking to bar the plaintiffs from requesting punitive damages at any time. The motion was based on the general assumption because the Illinois Nursing Home Care Act does not specifically state whether or not punitive damages survive a person’s death, that they do not.

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An Illinois nursing home abuse lawsuit was recently the subject of a review by the Illinois Appellate Court; Peterson v. Residential Alternatives of Illinois, Inc., No. 3-09-0743. The court reviewed whether the Illinois nursing home had the right to demand the decedent’s estate arbitrate its two-count complaint claiming a wrongful death count and a survival action count under the Illinois Nursing Home Care Act.

The trial court upheld the defendant’s right to arbitrate and denied plaintiff’s request for a jury trial. This arbitration clause issue was recently ruled on by the Illinois Supreme Court in Carter v. SSC Odin Operating Co., LLC, No. 106511 (4/15/10), where the Court upheld the nursing home’s right to arbitrate in Illinois nursing home abuse cases.

The main issue in both Peterson and Carter revolves around the signed arbitration agreement. However, while in Carter the arbitration language was included in the nursing home care contract, in Peterson the arbitration agreement was a separate document. It seems that this seemingly small difference has in fact resulted in a very different legal outcome in Peterson.

The Appellate Court held that even though the two documents were signed on the same date that there was no evidence that they should be taken as one unified document. The language used in the arbitration agreement was very vague and never specifically referred to the nursing home care contract, nor did the nursing home care contract ever refer to the arbitration agreement. Specifically, the arbitration agreement stated, “Notwithstanding the parties intent to submit any controversy or claim arising out of or relating to this agreement or any other document signed or initialed in connection with this agreement to arbitration.”
While the court noted that prior case law has supported the connection between two separate documents signed at the same time, the law requires that “an enforceable contract must be premised on language that is definite and certain as to all essential terms.” Academy Chicago Publishers v. Cheever, 144 Ill. 2d1224, 30 (1991). The court found that the language included in the arbitration agreement did not satisfy this requirement.

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