Most residents of Louisiana view nursing homes exclusively as residents for elderly and infirm patients who are unable to care for themselves. In reality, many hospital patients who have undergone serious surgery are sent to nursing homes for brief periods of recuperation until they are able to return to their homes. These patients are especially susceptible to negligence on the part of the nursing home staff. A recent verdict from Natchez demonstrates the vulnerability of this group of patients.
The Nursing Home’s mistake
The patient had recently had surgery to amputate his lower left leg as the result of diabetes. After the surgery, he was sent to the nursing home for fitting a prosthesis and fpr rehabilitation. On February 15, the man fell and struck his head on a concrete wall. According to the man’s attorney, the nursing home staff violated its rules by assigning only one nurse to the man in connection with a move from a chair to a bed. According to the attorney, two nurses should have been assigned to assist the man in using a slide board. Instead, the patient was left to use his own resources to make the move. The fall occurred when the man was attempting to move himself onto the slide board. No member of the nursing home staff witnessed the fall, and when the patient reported the incident to a member of the nursing home staff, it was recorded as a “miscellaneous incident,” rather than a fall. The nurse who made the record also noted that the patient hit his head on a brick wall when he fell.
A short time later, the patient began vomiting and was taken to Merit Health and then airlifted to University of Mississippi Medical Center. After arriving at UMMC, the patient died from what was later diagnosed as a brain injury. The deceased man’s attorney asserted at trial that the nursing home was negligent in failing to provide the assistance in moving the patient that was called for in the treatment plan.
The man’s family brought a lawsuit under Mississippi’s wrongful death statute, seeking damages for loss of financial support and companionship. The case was tried before a jury in Natchez. The jury decided that the nursing home staff had been negligent and awarded the decedent’s family damages of $1.27 million. The nursing home has not stated whether it will appeal the result.
Alabama nursing homes are held to the same standard of care as nursing homes in Mississippi: the staff must use reasonable care in treating and taking care of patients. In this case, the jury decided that the nursing home staff was negligent in failing to assign two staff members to tend to the patient at all times.
Anyone who has lost a loved one under similar circumstances may wish to consult a lawyer with experience in nursing home malpractice cases for an analysis of the evidence and an opinion on the likelihood of recovering damages.