Some of the most common injuries to nursing home residents are not caused by individual events such as falls or violent attacks but, rather, result from ongoing neglect in the care and treatment of residents. Ongoing neglect has been found to result in malnutrition, dehydration, bedsores and pressure sores. Such neglect is actionable, as it may be found that the nursing home breached its duty of care in not following commonly accepted medical practices regarding patient skin care, such as regularly rotating a patient that is bedridden.

Premises

A nursing home is under a duty to use reasonable care to keep its premises in a reasonably safe condition. Visitors to a private nursing home are usually considered invitees of the home; as such, the nursing owes them a duty of ordinary care for their safety. Essentially, this requires that the premises used by visitors be kept in a reasonably safe condition and not expose visitors to danger unnecessarily. The nursing home should also eliminate any known dangers on the premises, or at least warn visitors of any hidden conditions about which it is, or should be, aware. However, a nursing home is not an “insurer” of a visitor’s safety, and might not have a duty to warn visitors of conditions or dangers that are obvious.

Selection and Maintenance of Equipment

Residents of private nursing homes have the right to expect that the homes and their employees will exercise reasonable care in selecting and maintaining the equipment and facilities used by residents. Defective devices such as wheelchairs, beds, lamps and other appliances, and poorly maintained stairways, hallways, and examination tables have resulted in nursing home liability.

Defense Considerations

In negligence actions, nursing homes are entitled to assert the sorts of defenses that are available inmost negligence cases, such as the contributory negligence of the injured party, and assumption of a known risk. However, in some cases, such as where a person has placed him or herself into a nursing home specifically because he or she needed to be protected from the effects of certain medical conditions, the defense of contributory negligence may not be allowed.

A common tactic employed by defendants in cases brought against nursing homes is to attack causation, and argue that a resident’s underlying disease(s) and physical condition caused the alleged injury, or at least make the issue of causation unclear.

Last modified: August 25, 2020

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