We recently obtained a very favorable settlement in the case of a 91-year-old female patient who sustained a fall with fractures and head injury at a Roanoke area nursing home.
While at the nursing home, the patient was at all times a high fall risk because she had dementia and attempted on numerous occasions to get out of bed without assistance. On admission, the nursing home instructed the patient's family to hire sitters around the clock precisely because she was a fall risk. The family reluctantly agreed. For reasons unknown, the nursing home's staff later instructed the patient's family that sitters could be discontinued on the evening shift even though the patient remained a high fall risk during all shifts.
In the early morning hours of May 10, 2006, the patient sustained an unwitnessed fall in her bedroom. We contended the nursing home failed to take proper fall prevention measures to ensure the patient's safety before and at the time of her fall. Specifically, the nursing home did not properly supervise the patient or provide staff of sufficient numbers or location to respond timely to the patient's fall alarm. One of the patient's privately-hired sitters was later told by a member of the nursing home's staff that the nursing home "let her fall" and "did not put the [fall] alarm on before the fall."
After the fall, the nursing home failed to obtain immediate emergency medical assistance and treatment for the patient. Even though the patient's fall occurred as early as 5:00 a.m., the patient did not receive a CT scan until early afternoon on the day of the fall, and she was not sent to the hospital until the late afternoon. The nursing home’s own director of nursing acknowledged the patient should have received emergency medical attention immediately after the fall, especially since she had an obvious head injury and was on anticoagulants. The nursing home also failed to have in place a policy directing staff to obtain emergency medical assistance. The Virginia Department of Health investigated the patient's injuries and concluded the nursing home's care and treatment was deficient.
As a result of the fall, the patient sustained impact to her face and head, lacerations to the face and right hand, bruising to the right side of her face, a right orbital fracture that included fractures to the orbital rim, floor, anterior and lateral walls of the right maxillary sinus, and the inferior wall of the right orbit, significant bruising around her right shoulder, a right clavicle fracture, and a right scapula fracture. She also developed an intraventricular bleed and a traumatic brain injury as a result of the fall. As a result of her orthopedic injuries, the patient was permitted to bear weight on her right shoulder only as tolerated and was placed in an arm sling. She also experienced pain and increased confusion as a result of her injuries. The patient died for reasons unrelated to the fall approximately nine months later.
The case was settled before trial for six figures. Specifics about the settlement were made confidential at the nursing home's request.
Robert W. Carter, Jr. is a Virginia attorney whose law practice is dedicated to protecting the rights of the victims of nursing home and assisted living neglect and abuse in Richmond, Roanoke, Norfolk, Lynchburg, Danville, Martinsville, Charlottesville, and across Virginia
Posted on Sun, February 22, 2009
by Robert Carter