An elderly female nursing home patient was permitted to fall from her bed to the floor. The nursing home claimed it was changing the patient’s bed sheets while the patient remained in bed. The patient was turned away from the aide who was making the bed and positioned on her side at the edge of the bed. The aide was looking down, the patient began to fall, the aide did not respond to stop the fall, and the patient fell to the floor.
As a result of the fall, the patient sustained a left knee fracture and left ankle sprain. The patient’s injuries required physical therapy and occupational therapy but no surgery. The left knee fracture was treated conservatively using a knee immobilizer, and the left ankle sprain was treated with an air cast. The patient’s orthopedic injuries lasted for several months and healed without complication.
As a result of injuries sustained in the fall, the patient experienced significant pain, which in turn required increased narcotic pain medications and resulted in periodic lethargy/over sedation. Despite attempts to control the patient’s fracture-related pain, break through pain often occurred, limiting the patient’s ability to participate in activities of daily living and progress in therapy and restorative activities. The patient’s injuries also caused her to be less mobile, require additional assistance from staff for activities of daily living, and put the patient at risk of skin break down.
The patient’s leg immobilizer, which she was required to wear because of the fracture, caused a significant open pressure ulcer (also known as pressure sore, bed sore, and decubitus ulcer) to her left lower leg with drainage, inflammation, and sloughs that impeded wound healing. The leg wound required extensive wound care. The patient also experienced an increased fear of falling.
The lawsuit was filed by the family Sylvia Coleman v. Medical Facilities of America, Inc. and its affiliated business entities, which included the limited partnership that owned Lynchburg Health & Rehabilitation Center, where the fall occurred.
We claim the nursing home did not use proper fall prevention measures. Specifically, we claim the aide who turned the patient to her side on the opposite edge of the bed should have rolled the patient toward, not away, from her. In addition, the aide should have more closely supervised the patient for safety to prevent falls. Of course, the nursing home also failed simply to place the patient in a chair for safety while changing the bed sheets. The nursing home denied liability. The patient incurred medical expenses of approximately $14,000.00. After a several-day jury trial in the City of Lynchburg Circuit Court, the jury concluded that the nursing home was negligent and awarded damages in the total amount of $364,500.00. After the jury verdict, the nursing home attempted to appeal the verdict, but later dropped the appeal voluntarily.
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, Charlottesville, and across Virginia.