Improper Nursing Home Leads to Bed Sore and Death

Article posted on:09/18/2008

A Louisiana jury recently awarded the daughter of an 84-year-old man $1 million dollars after the man developed a bed sore while confined to his hospital bed and later died. The victim was apparently admitted to a nursing home due to his declining health. At the time of admission, he was confined to his bed, required a feeding tube and a Stage II pressure sore on his left hip. Within a month of his admission, the man's bed sore had become infected due to exposure to feces, he had become malnourished and was suffering from dehydration. In addition, he had developed a new Stage II pressure sore on his right hip and on his sacrum. He was subsequently transferred to a hospital where he died six days later. The lawsuit brought by his surviving daughter alleged that the nursing home failed to adequately treat and prevent bed sores and failed to properly clean and bathe her father.

At STSW, we have recently and routinely secured large verdicts for patients who have died or suffered severe injuries as a result of the bed sores or infections arising out of untreated bed sores. Given the large number of nursing homes in the Baltimore and Washington D.C. area, these cases are becoming all too frequent. It is important to note that there are many advancements that have been made in the prevention and treatment of bed sores in recent years. As a result, the negligent failure to properly treat and prevent bed sores is becoming entirely unacceptable.

Nursing home malpractice cases involving patient neglect are often very difficult for plaintiff's attorneys.  Whereas in typical personal injury type cases jurors are asked to focus on things such as medical expenses, lost wages and lasting results from injuries, these things are often absent in nursing home cases.  As a result, attorneys representing injured  nursing home patients must focus on developing themes that focus on the nursing home's wrong doing such as:   that the nursing home puts profits over people; that the facility was understaffed and the home knew it; that the staff were not adequately trained; and that the case is not just about 1 patient but about a larger systemic problem at the facility.  In short, attorneys often focus on the institutional negligence as opposed to the negligence of lower level employees.   

Nursing home cases also differ from more traditional personal injury cases because they focus more on the pain, suffering and loss of dignity associated with the below standard care.  In this vein, it is important for a patient's lawyer to identify multiple witnesses who saw the pain and suffering; to show that the patient was being given pain medication; have an expert discuss the various levels of  pain that the patient was in at various times and provide visual demonstrations of painful procedures such as debridement (removal of dead skin surrounding a pressure sore).

Nursing home cases also tend to focus more on a patient's co-morbidities (conditions that the patient already has at the time of the negligence) and how those conditions affected the patient's injuries.  Defendants typically use these co-morbidities to argue that the resident's pre-existing medical conditions caused the subject injuries and were already causing the resident significant pain and suffering; that bedsores or other injuries were unavoidable; that the resident was going to die soon anyways; and/or that the co-morbidities reduced what the applicable standard of care required because the resident was so difficult to manage.   These arguments sometimes work well because, in reality, they are, in part, true.  Plaintiff's attorneys attempt to combat these arguments and by countering with arguments focusing on the fact that the resident's co-morbidities are what required the resident to be placed in the nursing home in the first place and that the nursing home promised that they could take care of the patient and provide good care; that the nursing home knew about the co-morbidities, was paid to take care of the resident and should not have admitted him or her into the facility if it could not provide adequate care; that medical conditions do not excuse resident neglect or malpractice and that the nursing home was required to provide quality care regardless of the patient's conditions. 

If you or a loved one have been the victim of nursing home neglect or abuse, call the lawyers at Silverman, Thompson, Slutkin & White for a free consultation.