Wrongful Death

Wrongful Death at Nursing Homes

The term wrongful death is used to describe situations where a person has died because of the behavior or conduct of another agency or individual.

Wrongful death is a legal term but is one used in the nursing home setting, as it applies to some deaths occurring in this environment. Wrongful death lawsuits are usually filed in cases involving neglect or abuse in a nursing home setting, as well as other situations where the elderly has died because of the misconduct of another where death was completely avoidable.

Who Can Sue for Wrongful Death?

The regulations regarding wrongful death in a nursing home situation can vary from state to state. There is some variability in who is allowed to file suit for a wrongful death. There may be a number of individuals who have a vested interest in the death of a loved one and may be able to sue when a wrongful death has occurred.

The various parties that can file for the wrongful death of a loved one include the following individuals:

  • Immediate family. Immediate family members have the ability to file suit for wrongful death in every state. This includes spouses, parents of an unmarried child and children of the diseased person. All are considered to be immediate family in cases of wrongful death lawsuits.
  • Life partners, financial dependents and putative spouses. In some states, people who were financially dependent on the deceased person are allowed to file a wrongful death lawsuit. “Putative spouses” are people who believe that they were legally married to the deceased person. Life partners may also qualify as being able to file a wrongful death claim.
  • Distant family members. Some states allow distant family members, such as brothers, sisters, grandparents and other relatives to file wrongful death lawsuits on behalf of the deceased person.
  • People who have suffered financially. In some states, any party who has suffered from some kind of financial loss as a result of having their loved one be deceased may file a wrongful death suit against a nursing facility.

Lawsuits Regarding Wrongful Death in a Nursing Facility

Wrongful death of an individual in a nursing facility may be the result of a combination of reasons. The wrongful death may have resulted from the willful abuse on the behalf of a nursing home staff member.

In addition, the wrongful death may be the result of negligence on the part of the staff members at the nursing home. They may have failed to perform their job correctly, resulting in the death of an elderly person in their charge.

Holder vs. Beverly Enterprises Inc.

This is a case where an 83-year-old individual by the name of Ruth Waites was a resident of a nursing facility called Borger Nursing Center. While Ms. Waites was living in the nursing facility, she became extremely dehydrated and required a hospitalization to treat her illness. When she returned to the nursing home, she developed bed sores and needed to be hospitalized for a second time. The pressure sores were so severe that they became infected. The infection resulted in the death of the resident.

Ms. Waites’ estate filed a lawsuit against the owners of the Borger Nursing Center. The claim was that the hospitalization of the nursing home resident was a direct result of neglect occurring at the nursing facility, and that the neglect was caused by understaffing at the nursing home.

In addition to the lawsuit for negligence, Ms. Waite’s estate also filed a lawsuit claiming fraud on the part of the owners who they believed willfully hid the fact that their staffing levels were inadequate. The lawsuit was won by Ms. Waite’s estate, who were awarded $83 million USD as a result of the wrongful death of their loved one.

Georgia Ann Bailey Smith vs. Senior Living Properties

Georgia Ann Bailey Smith was the legal heir of the estate of Dud Grover Baily. The estate sued the Senior Living Properties Corporation for the wrongful death of their loved one. Dud Grover Baily was a resident at a nursing facility run by the Senior Living Properties Corporation. Baily died at aged 90 as a result of a variety of health complications at the facility, including having multiple strokes, iron deficiency anemia, urinary tract infections and breakdown of the skin.

Smith alleged in her lawsuit that the complications that lead to the death of Dud Grover Baily were the direct result of negligence of the nursing home facility operated by the Senior Living Properties Corporation. Smith claimed that the facility failed to follow their own healthcare protocols, did not allow for adequate staffing of their nursing home, and did not contact Bailey’s physician in a prompt fashion when Bailey was suffering from his various health problems. There was a settlement by the Senior Living Properties Corporation in the amount of $13.5 million USD.

Filing For Wrongful Death

Wrongful death can be a serious problem in nursing homes of all sizes and types. These nursing homes are required to ensure that they are adequately staffed by individuals who can provide the proper care to their residents.

If you feel your loved one may have been the victim of a wrongful death, you should contact a lawyer experienced in this field of law.

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Dr. Christine Traxler

Christine Traxler, MD is a retired family practice physician, graduate of the University of Minnesota School of Medicine in 1986, and freelance writer, having worked with patients in rural Minnesota for two decades. She has written several books on medical topics and currently resides in Minneapolis, MN, where she works as a freelance writer on medical topics.

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