Nursing Home Abuse: February 2009 Archives

February 14, 2009

Alleged Nursing Home Negligence Results in Resident Freezing to Death

A nursing home resident's family's lawyer has filed a lawsuit alleging neglect and abuse on the part of an Illinois nursing home after an 89 year old woman known to have dementia was found frozen to death outside her nursing home according to reports.  Sarah Wentworth was found in the nursing home courtyard wearing only her hospital gown and an ankle alarm that was supposed to alert the nursing home staff if she attempted to leave the building.  According to Wentworth's family, she had lived in the home for two years and was too frail to get out of bed on her own. 

Residents of Florida nursing homes have a "bill of rights" expressly provided in the legislation.  Florida Statute ยง 400.022 provides, among other rights, that nursing home residents have the right to civil and religious liberties, informed consent and independent decision-making, liberal visitation, the right to present grievances, the right to receive adequate and appropriate health care and services, and the right to be treated courteously, fairly and with the fullest measure of dignity.  These rights and responsibilities are required by law to be published by the nursing home.

Florida law provides that any resident whose rights under the statute are violated shall have a cause of action.  Nursing home residents or there representative must show that the nursing home owed a duty to the resident, that the nursing home breached that duty, that the breach of the duty by the nursing home caused the resident's loss or injury, and that the breach caused some damage to the resident if claiming nursing home negligence.  At times, punitive damages can also be awarded if the jury finds by clear and convincing evidence the defendant was personally guilty of intentional misconduct or gross negligence as defined by the statute.  Although too complex to be covered by this article, interesting legal questions and arguments arise when a nursing home is owned and operated through a complex corporate structure. 

The legislature has obviously found it necessary to specifically legislate these facilities to ensure the safe, adequate, and appropriate care, treatment, and health of nursing home residents.  Despite such legislation, some nursing homes continue to fall below the acceptable standard and neglect and injure their residents. 

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