Legal Responsibility for Accidents/Harm in Orleans Parish Nursing Homes

Admitting your elderly mother into a nursing home is supposed to relieve stress and lift a burden from your shoulders. You believe she is going to receive the proper care she needs that you are unable to provide.

Unfortunately, for Edward Lewis, tragedy happened after he made this tough decision. His 93-year old aunt, who Lewis considered a mother, drowned in a whirlpool at Easthaven Rehabilitation Care Center in 2002. The nursing home told Lewis that his aunt died peacefully in her sleep but it wasn’t until one month later he learned the truth — an employee had placed his wheelchair-bound aunt in a whirlpool unsupervised, even after Lewis told the staff he did not want her in the water. Sadly, actions that cause harm or even death to a nursing home resident can generate minimal response from the state.

In Louisiana, nursing homes are required to report all “suspicious deaths.” Per a NOLA.com article approximately 4,500 nursing home residents die every year in Louisiana and of 250 wrongful deaths reported from 1999-2005, only 15 of those deaths were labeled as “suspicious.” Steven Miles, a University of Minnesota professor who published a 2002 report called “Concealing Nursing Home Deaths,” said almost half of the reported cause of deaths in nursing homes across the nation is wrong. For example, back in 1998 in Arkansas one 78 year old nursing home resident
suffocated while in restraints. The nursing home had claimed he died from natural causes and failed to report the death for nearly two months. The nursing home was only fined $500. Arkansas then became the only state to require a nursing home to report a resident death. No other state, including Louisiana, has enacted such a law.

In 2005, the Times-Picayune reviewed 250 nursing home wrongful death claims. They found that 52 residents died after being dropped by a staff member or falling, 42 suffered a fatal infection from an untreated bed sore, and 22 died from malnutrition or dehydration. NOLA.com says that inspection reports show that most of Louisiana’s 300 nursing homes have been cited from 1999 to 2005 for mistakes that harmed or endangered residents. Additionally, during those six years, at least 760 residents have been harmed
by poor care. However, facilities in Louisiana often pay little or no penalty for fatal errors
Family members in Louisiana are starting to mobilize and speak up for their elderly relatives who were wronged in the facilities they were supposed to be comfortable in. From 1999-2005, at least 250 wrongful-death lawsuits were brought against nursing homes, resulting in 88 settlements or jury awards. Experts say nursing homes are less likely to break the rules when they know they’ll be punished.

What types of claims can you make for a disappointing experience with a nursing home? Wrongful death is a prominent one. This means that the nursing home’s negligence caused one of the elderly resident’s death. The tragedy involving Lewis’ aunt would be characterized as a wrongful death because not only did the nursing home put her in the whirlpool when she should not have been, but they failed to supervise her, leading up to her drowning.

Additionally, after Hurricane Katrina, a multitude of nursing home residents died as a result of the storm. Several wrongful lawsuits are pending that blame the nursing homes themselves for not mobilizing and evacuating the residents. At Lafon in Orleans Parish, nuns that were in charge of the residents were able to evacuate, but somehow the elderly were left on the first floor of the home, as water seeped in to the home, covering three feet.

More so, a classic negligence claim is possible. Here, the nursing home is careless but thankfully, no death results, just injury. An example would be mixing up medications for patients or leaving residents unsupervised and a potential fight or argument breaks out, leaving some residents with injuries.

Therefore, if you think a loved one died from a wrongful death in a nursing home, contact the Berniard Law Firm Toll-Free at 1-866-574-8005 and an attorney will be more than happy to help you.