Death at Monroe V.A. Home Leads to Lawsuit

Two daughters of a veteran who resided at the Northeast Louisiana War Veterans Home have sued the state’s Department of Veterans Affairs and the administrator of the home after their father died as a result of wandering out from the home into freezing temperatures, according to the Monroe Newsstar.

The lawsuit alleges that staff failed to notice their 83-year-old father, Ernest Emmitt Moody, leaving the home in his wheelchair early in the morning on January 4. Although cameras recorded Moody leaving the home around 3:45 a.m. through a rear exit, the daughters claim in the lawsuit that the V.A. Home told them there were no cameras. The assistant administrator at the facility, Tommy Shoemaker, has stated that the staff did not begin searching the building until about 4:30 a.m. After failing to locate Moody, the staff called Shoemaker, who came to the home to search the grounds and the pecan orchard.

The Newsstar reports that

He had managed to get across U.S. 165 to Venable Lane where his wheelchair and shoes were found between Denmon Engineering and Copeland’s Electric Co. A Copeland’s employee tried calling the VA home to see if they were missing a patient after discovering Moody’s wheelchair in a ditch, but could not get an answer.

He then drove to the facility and learned a patient was missing. Returning, he found Moody some 800 feet from his wheelchair in a pecan grove behind Denmon’s, where he was carried to warmth while awaiting in the ambulance.

The temperature outside the morning of Moody’s escape was about 25 degrees with a mixture of rain, sleet, and snow. When he left the home, Moody was wearing only a t-shirt and flannel shirt, pants, and shoes. The ambulance transported Moody to St. Francis Medical Center, but he was later transferred to LSU Health Sciences Center. Moody later died on January 6.

The daughters filed the lawsuit blaming the V.A. Home and its administrator for their father’s death. According to the Newsstar, the lawsuit alleges Moody died as a result of

the negligence of the defendants, including failure to perform timely nightly room checks; falsifying medical records regarding a room check on the night Moody went missing; failure to secure the premises; and deviating from the appropriate standard of care.

Louisiana law requires nursing homes to provide a reasonable standard of care based on the mental and physical condition of the resident. In Hinson v. Glen Oak Retirement System, Louisiana’s Second Circuit Court of Appeal found that

This standard of care must take into consideration the fact that nursing home residents have a need to live within the least restrictive environment possible in order to retain their individuality and some personal freedom and preserve their dignity and integrity.

In 1986, the Second Circuit decided a case involving the death of a nursing home patient in very similar circumstances. That case, McGillivray v. Rapides Iberia Management Enterprises, dealt with the death of a patient who wandered out of his nursing home in Shreveport around 4 a.m. into 42 degree January weather. The staff of that nursing home found the patient about 30 minutes after discovering him missing, but he died of heart failure as a result of the exposure. Because that patient was known to wander unexpectedly, the court found that the nursing home in that case had a duty to protect the patient from exposure should he leave the home unattended during the night.

Although a nursing home patient may be physically repsonsible for wandering out of the safety of the nursing home, Louisiana courts, in cases such as Sharbino v. State Farm Mutual Automobile Insurance Company, have found that disabilities resulting from age diminish one’s duty of care.

Where a nursing home has breached a duty to a patient, the plaintiffs in a wrongful death action need prove only that the nursing home’s breach of duty resulted in the patient’s loss of chance of survival, according to a recent decision in Guilbeau v. Bayou Chateau Nursing Center.

Nursing home negligence is a serious concern for the aging population in Louisiana.

The Berniard Law Firm will protect the interests of their clients against such abuse. You can contact The Berniard Law Firm Toll-Free at 1-866-574-8005 and an attorney will make sure that your claim does not get neglected.