Patient Falls, Fractures Ribs, Suffers Respiratory Distress and Dies

An 81-year-old patient was admitted to a nursing home on March 18, 2009. On admission, he was known by the defendants to be a high fall risk due to an unsteady gait and weakness and poor safety while ambulating, among other medical conditions and limitations.

On March 21, 2009, the patient was permitted by the nursing home to fall in his bathroom. The patient was found in the bathroom floor. When he was found, his pupils were non-reactive and unresponsive to light, he had sustained an extensive skin tear and swelling to the left side of his back, and he complained of chest pain, neck pain, back pain, and shortness of breath.

The patient was transported to a local hospital, where he was diagnosed with left rib fractures, a left pneumothorax, and progressive respiratory distress. The patient’s pneumothorax was so severe that a chest tube was placed in the emergency room. The patient was admitted to the hospital for pain control, management of the chest tube, and ongoing care secondary to his respiratory failure distress.

Despite aggressive care and treatment at the hospital, the patient became less responsive and his clinical condition deteriorated rapidly. He coded and never regained significant spontaneous respirations and died on March 23, 2009.

The family contacted us to pursue claims against the nursing home for failing to provide proper fall prevention care. We were able to obtain a generous award for the family.