Abuse and neglect of elderly nursing home patients is always reprehensible.
But there is something even more gravely distressing about a victim who dedicated a good portion of her career to protecting seniors in nursing facilities. As a mother of six and the first administrator on the Area Agency on Aging in her Idaho community, the dignity and well-being of elderly patients was her top priority, according to her obituary.
And yet, according to a civil lawsuit filed by her son, those same basic rights were not afforded to her as she resided in a nursing home at the age of 88.
In Mattox v. Life Care Centers of America, her son asserts she suffered an unnecessary fall, precipitated by substandard care, which resulted in a fractured femur and then a rapid decline of health. Too ill to undergo major surgery to repair the fracture, her condition worsened and she died the following day.
Our Hollywood nursing home abuse lawyers know falls in nursing homes are a serious problem. It’s estimated by the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention that 1,800 older adults in nursing homes die every year due to fall-related injuries. Even those who survive suffer injuries that often result in permanent disability and greatly reduced quality of life.
While many falls are never reported, an average 100-bed nursing home reports between 100 to 200 falls annually, which means the average person suffers at least 1 if not 2 falls per person. Frequently, the same patients tend to suffer falls repeatedly.
About a third of those who suffer falls can’t walk, so the issue is clearly a lack of appropriate care and prevention.
In the Mattox case, recently considered by the Idaho Supreme Court, the decedent had a history of falling, of which the nursing home was fully aware. Had the center provided adequate care and followed through with adequate fall prevention efforts, her injuries and resulting death could have been avoided.
In district court, defendant nursing home moved for summary judgment on grounds plaintiff failed to identify an expert witness who could attest defendant’s care fell below acceptable standards. This is a key element when alleging any form of medical malpractice. Defendant presented its own brief affidavit from the center’s nursing services director, who asserted the care complied with all applicable standards of health care practice.
Plaintiff responded with two affidavits – one from his mother’s primary care physician and from a nurse with local experience in skilled nursing facilities. Both asserted a breach of the standard of care directly resulted in the woman’s untimely death.
Defendant nursing home argued these affidavits were inadmissible because neither expert demonstrated actual knowledge of the applicable standard of care in an area long-term care facility.
Trial court agreed, striking the testimony and effectively killing the case. However, that ruling was ultimately reversed by the state supreme court, which found the affidavits were “clearly admissible,” as both established actual knowledge of applicable care practice.
Further, the court noted with the acceptance of that testimony, plaintiffs established genuine issues of material fact precluding summary judgment. Thus, the case was remanded back to the lower court for trial.
Freeman Injury Law — 1-800-561-7777 for a free appointment to discuss your rights.
Mattox v. Life Care Centers of America,Oct. 29, 2014, Idaho Supreme Court
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