MA nursing home wrongful death lawsuit highlights risks residents face

Nursing Home Wrongful Death

Entrusting the care of a parent or other loved one to strangers in a nursing home or care facility can be difficult, but many people in Cambridge, Massachusetts, make this decision because they believe it will be for the best. Unfortunately, nursing home neglect or abuse is a fairly common issue. A recent lawsuit involving the death of a Massachusetts nursing home resident underscores the unnecessary risk that residents and their families unfortunately face.

Liability for preventable harm

In 2009, a 98-year old nursing home resident with dementia attacked and killed her roommate. According to USA Today, the resident was never prosecuted, as she was not deemed competent to stand trial. The victim's family has filed a wrongful death lawsuit against the nursing home. An arbitrator ruled in 2012 that the nursing home was not negligent, but the family appealed the decision, and the Massachusetts Appeals Court will soon decide whether the lawsuit can go to trial.

In this particular case, there is some evidence that the nursing home staff could have taken steps to prevent the tragic incident, according to CBS. The roommate experienced violent episodes in the hours just before the killing, and the staff was aware of these episodes. However, the staff failed to separate the two residents, call a physician or RN or notify the victim's family of this development. Instead, the staff left the residents together overnight.

Nursing homes are tasked with protecting the rights of residents, and residents have the right to live free of abuse and punishment, according to materials from the Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services. Abuse includes any intentional physical injury. When a nursing home fails to take reasonable steps to prevent abuse, punishment and other types of harm, the nursing home may be held liable for any resulting injuries or fatalities.

Common nursing home injuries

Sadly, inattentive care and intentional nursing home abuse may lead to a wide range of nursing home injuries. These include:

  • Infections, bedsores and pressure ulcers.
  • Malnutrition or dehydration.
  • Complications from incorrect medications.
  • Falls or related traumatic injuries.

Under state law, nursing homes must take reasonable steps to prevent injuries that arise accidentally or as a result of intentional actions. It does not matter if staff, other residents or facility volunteers contribute to or directly cause the injury in question. If an injury could have reasonably been expected and prevented, the nursing home may be found negligent for allowing the injury to occur.

Help for victims

Anyone who suspects that a loved one is suffering from poor care or abuse in a nursing home should report the suspicion to the state's Adult Protective Services Agency, according to the Administration on Aging. If a serious incident has already occurred, meanwhile, seeking legal counsel can be beneficial. Meeting with an attorney can help victims or their family members understand their rights and determine whether they can pursue compensation through a personal injury lawsuit.

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