Nursing Home Neglect Resulting in Broken Neck and Bedsores Leads to Settlement

Two Montana nursing homes recently reached a mid-trial settlement in a wrongful death case arising out of allegations that nurses and staff at the nursing home were negligent in the provision of health care to 87-year-old Ralph Seewald.  The lawsuit, brought following Mr. Seewald's November 2005 death from an infection, alleged that nurses failed to properly monitor and support Mr. Seewald during a transfer from his wheelchair, omissions that led to him falling and breaking his neck.  As a result of this incident, Mr. Seewald was forced to be bedridden for a period of months.  During this time, however, nursing staff negligently permitted him to develop severe pressure ulcers/sores that gradually worsened.  Ultimately, the untreated pressure ulcers caused Mr. Seewald to develop a fatal case of gangrene (a blood infection).  In the lawsuit, Mr. Seewald's surviving family members sought damages associated with his pain suffering, mental anguish, emotional distress, medical and funeral expenses and loss of companionship. 

As experienced medical malpractice/negligence lawyers in Baltimore, Maryland, our team of lawyers has handled numerous cases of nursing home negligence or neglect.  These instances of medical malpractice all too often result in the development of bed/pressure ulcers, which, if untreated, can lead to the death of elderly patients.  In many instances, these pressure sores develop after a patient has suffered a severe fall (either prior to the nursing care or as a result of negligent care) and is forced to be bedridden for an extended period of time.  In circumstances in which the patient dies, certain surviving family members are, in many instances, entitled to recover for their loved one's pain, suffering and emotional distress, not to mention medical bills/expenses and their own loss of companion with their family member. 

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.