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Ex parte Fairfield Nursing & Rehabilitation Ctr. – Dropped Nursing Home Patient

Many nursing home residents are unable to walk or unable to walk any significant differences. Often, they use wheelchairs and require assistance to perform basic tasks, such as going to the restroom, bathing and getting in and out of bed. 

Although there are accepted industry protocols for the best and safest way to move patients, these procedures aren’t always followed. When facilities are understaffed, caregivers are often inexperienced, rushed or simply careless when it comes to moving patients. This results in nursing home patients being dropped, most often during routine transfers.

When a nursing home resident is dropped, it can lead to serious health complications, including:

  • Fractured bones
  • Internal bleeding or organ damage
  • Concussion or other traumatic brain injury
  • Fatality

While these acts are not necessarily a form of nursing home abuse, they may almost certainly be found to amount to negligence, for which patients and surviving family members may be entitled to compensation through litigation.

An example of a case stemming from a dropped nursing home patient was seen in the Alabama Supreme Court, which was tasked with weighing a writ of mandamus petition in the case of Ex Parte Fairfield Nursing & Rehabilitation Center, LLC.

According to court records, patient was admitted to a nursing home in 2006, as she was elderly and frail and required assistance with day-to-day care and medical needs.

At the time of her admission, she had no broken bones.

Within several months of her admission, patient suffered a broken leg while in the care of the nursing home. An employee was reportedly attempting to move patient from her wheelchair to a bedside toilet when she dropped the patient.

Plaintiff (first patient and later, upon her death, her son) alleged this act was negligent and resulted in severe injury to both of her legs. Her right leg was broken, while her left leg sustained injury.

Complaint asserted employee’s act violated industry standards and the nursing home’s own policy by improperly using a lift to complete this task. Plaintiff sought to hold nursing home liable for the worker’s actions.

Plaintiff deposed the executive of the facility, as well as 12 facility employees and two contractor employees.

Trial court denied defense motion for summary judgment, and the case went to trial.

When both sides had finished presenting their case, defense filed a motion for summary judgment in its favor, which trial court granted. Further, trial court denied plaintiff’s motion to reconsider.

Plaintiff appealed to the Alabama Supreme Court, which reversed, determining trial court had abused its discretion, and the case was remanded for further proceedings – i.e., a new jury trial.

Plaintiff then filed a motion to compel depositions among several of the facility’s representatives or named experts. Plaintiff sought to redepose a number of the witnesses because, as counsel asserted, facts may have changed that would be relevant to the case.

Defendants countered this by arguing there was no justifiable reason to redepose and asserted to do so would be unduly burdensome for the witnesses.

Trial court sided with plaintiff, but then defense appealed again to the state supreme court, seeking an order of protection to prevent redeposition.

Although noting defendant’s language in the petition was “confusing,” the court determined the merits of the request were straightforward and agreed that to require a redeposition of defense witnesses was unnecessarily burdensome.

The petition was granted. That doesn’t mean plaintiffs have lost their case. It will simply go to trial with plaintiff relying on the initial depositions that were taken prior to the first trial.

Freeman Injury Law — 1-800-561-7777 for a free appointment to discuss your rights.

Additional Resources:

Ex Parte Fairfield Nursing & Rehabilitation Center, LLC., May 29, 2015, Alabama Supreme Court

More Blog Entries:

Florida Lawmakers Pass New Law to Protect Assisted Living Facility Patients, May 24, 2015, West Palm Beach Nursing Home Negligence Lawyer Blog

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