A resident at an Illinois nursing home reportedly admitted to fire officials and police that she intentionally set a fire at the facility because she was, “tired of the nursing staff trying to boss her around.”
That account is according to TV-KSDK, which reported the woman resided in the independent living section of the nursing home. She insisted she did not intend to hurt anyone, and thankfully no one was injured. The fire was set in two empty rooms. Ten patients had to be evacuated and smoke and water damage was sustained in a total of 13 rooms.
It’s unclear from the report how exactly she started the fire. While she was charged with one felony count of aggravated arson, suggesting that officers determined not only did she have willful intent but was mentally competent, the case sets off a few red flags for our nursing home abuse lawyers.
First, given the fact that she was receiving full-time care, we do wonder whether she was in fact mentally competent. We suspect that is a point that could be raised by her criminal defense lawyer.
But beyond that, there is the question of how she came into possession of such tools and whether the nursing home was at all negligent in her supervision. Nursing homes have a duty to ensure their patients are properly supervised and protected from foreseeable harm. Staffers may not have known specifically that this patient wanted or planned to set fire to the facility, but certainly it’s foreseeable that when residents have access to flammable devices, there could be harm not only to themselves but to other patients.
Another issue our Boca Raton nursing home abuse lawyers would see as a concern is whether this was a cry for help. A vulnerable person who is suffering from abuse, neglect or any form of mistreatment may feel that drastic measures are the only way they might be heard. She may truly not have intended to inflict harm, but rather believed this to be the only means of summoning help or getting away.
Of course, we are not asserting that these things are definitively true in this case or even that there has been any strong indication. However, they are avenues investigators should explore. Our experience tells us that nursing home abuse, neglect and negligence is so common that the possibility should not be overlooked.
Additionally, we think this case warrants a discussion on resident-on-resident abuse in nursing homes. Although no other patients were injured in this incident, they were certainly at-risk. Resident-on-resident nursing home abuse is sadly quite common. A 2014 study by researchers at Cornell University revealed 1 in 5 nursing home residents at 10 facilities in New York state suffered at least one aggressive encounter with another resident.
Such incidents can take the form of physical violence, sexual abuse or verbal assault. In some high-profile cases, these incidents have proven fatal. In many cases, the aggressor is cognitively impaired or suffers some type of mood disorder. Criminal prosecutions are rare. However, it is the job of the nursing home to adequately screen residents and to monitor their behavior and ensure the safety of all who reside there. When there is a breach of that duty, civil litigation may be the best option to help the victim and/or the family with recovery.
Call Freeman Injury Law — 1-800-561-7777 for a free appointment to discuss your rights. Now serving Orlando, West Palm Beach, Port St. Lucie and Fort Lauderdale.
Resident of nursing home facility admits to setting fire, May 12, 2016, By Sam Clancy, KSDK
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Jurors Award $5.5M to Nursing Home Abuse Plaintiff in Wrongful Death Lawsuit, May 29, 2016, Boca Raton Nursing Home Neglect Lawyer Blog