The management structure of nursing homes has grow increasingly complex in recent years, making it more difficult to identify all responsible parties.
In fact, as the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services reported in a 2009 analysis, nursing homes use these complex management structures as a way to confuse which entities might actually be responsible for the day-to-day care of patients and the policies set in place that affect everything from staffing to cleaning to nutrition programs to personnel issues. What this does is make it harder for residents who have been abused or neglected – or their surviving loved ones – from seeking recourse from the appropriate parties in civil litigation.
These management structures usually involve separating ownership of the real estate from ownership of the staffing company from ownership of the cleaning crews, etc. All these distinct sub-companies make it difficult to determine who holds the organizational assets and what the organizational approach is and who is actually delivering the services.
All of this to say: If you want to make sure you name the correct defendants in your nursing home abuse lawsuit, you need to hire a law firm with extensive experience in this area of law.
Take the recent case of Maree v. Neuwirth, an appeal recently weighed by the Oklahoma Supreme Court.
According to court records, decedent was a resident of the nursing home in January 2011. She needed to use the restroom. She pushed the call light, as she could not make it to the bathroom on her own. But according to plaintiff (decedent’s daughter), no one came. It’s not clear exactly how much time passed, but it was enough that the patient attempted to get up herself to go. But she fell.
Even once she was discovered after the fall, it took nursing home staffers seven hours to notify a physician. Two days after the fall, she died.
Her daughter filed a lawsuit in 2013 against the nursing home as a corporate entity. She alleged the center failed to maintain its duty to the patient but not providing enough staffing to ensure she was properly cared for and properly supervised. She also alleged violation of state and federal guidelines that dictate patient care.
Two years later, plaintiff moved to amend her initial complaint to add several more defendants. Plaintiff asserted she was not previously aware of the existence of these other defendants when she first filed the case, but later learned these were individuals and companies that were intertwined with defendant, were responsible for overseeing daily operations at the nursing home that directly affected this patient and in some cases, they were actually part of the defendant.
Trial court rejected the motion to amend at the request of defendants, who alleged the statute of limitations had expired.
But on appeal, plaintiff argued the relation back doctrine was applicable, wherein these allegations against these defendants related back to the initial filing, and therefore she should be granted her motion to amend.
The Oklahoma Supreme Court found that the lower court hadn’t even considered the relation back motion and it should have. The case was remanded for further proceedings consistent with that opinion.
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Maree v. Neuwirth, June 7, 2016, Oklahoma Supreme Court
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Nursing Home Resident Admits Setting Fire to Facility, June 12, 2016, Nursing Home Negligence Attorney Blog