California Nursing Home Lawsuit Settled for Millions
September 10th, 2010
Patients and their families won a class action lawsuit against Skilled Healthcare Group Inc., which operates 22 assisted living facilities in California. Although the jury originally awarded $670 million, the case was settled for $50 million. Yes, it’s much less, but it also means that the patients will actually get compensation now, while they are still alive.
Skilled Healthcare Group Inc. was found liable for understaffing at its nursing homes–patients didn’t receive the minimum amount of nursing care required under California state law. Although the group did not admit doing anything wrong, it agreed to the settlement dollars.
The lawyers of HensonFuerst are heartened by the original verdict. Nursing home residents are routinely neglected and often abused, and we are happy to see that the good guys sometimes win. The only sour notes in this story are that the settlement ended up being only about 7% of the original verdict…and that Skilled Healthcare didn’t have to admit that it had done anything wrong.
We hope that this verdict serves as a caution to other nursing home operators—follow regulations, take care of residents, and put their health above the quest for money. Everyday, HensonFuerst Attorneys fight for the rights of abused and neglected elderly nursing home residents. We will continue to speak for them and, when necessary, to see that justice prevails.
To read more about this story, see the full article here: Los Angeles Times nursing home verdict story
World Elder Abuse Awareness Day
June 15th, 2010
Today, June 15, is the 5th annual World Elder Abuse Awareness Day.
Sponsored by the International Network for the Prevention of Elder Abuse (INPEA), the first Awareness Day in 2006 involved several hundred organizations and governmental bodies throughout the world, on all seven continents. Their core message is this: Never ignore elder abuse.
Throughout the world, abuse and neglect of older persons is largely under-recognized. It is an unspoken problem. Unfortunately, no community or country in the world is immune from this costly public health and human rights crisis.
Elder Abuse Facts
According to the World Health Organization, the elderly are especially at risk of abuse in institutions such as hospitals, nursing homes, and other long- term care facilities. In a survey in the United States, for example, 36% of nursing home staff reported having witnessed at least one incident of physical abuse of an elderly patient in the previous year, 10% admitted having committed at least one act of physical abuse themselves, and 40% said that they had psychologically abused patients.
Abusive acts include physically restraining patients, depriving them of dignity and choice over daily affairs, and providing insufficient care (for example, allowing them to develop pressure sores).
Signs and symptoms of abuse include:
- delays between injuries or illness and seeking medical attention;
- implausible or vague explanations for injuries or ill-health, from either patient or caregiver;
- differing injury accounts or case histories from patient and caregiver;
- frequent visits to emergency departments because a chronic condition has worsened, despite a care plan;
- laboratory findings that are inconsistent with reported treatment.
The HensonFuerst nursing home abuse team has seen first-hand the abuses that can be heaped on the elderly. Just a few months ago, six residents of the Britthaven of Chapel Hill nursing home were given overdoses of morphine, and one resident died. They were all in the Alzheimer’s unit, which means that they were helpless to know what was going on… helpless to fight back.
Stories like that are what keep HensonFuerst fighting against elder abuse every day of the year.
HensonFuerst Attorneys Researching Britthaven Nursing Home Abuse
June 9th, 2010
Attorney Carma Henson, partner with North Carolina-based HensonFuerst law firm, told reporters today that the HensonFuerst nursing home abuse team is conducting its own investigation into the the morphine overdose of nine Alzheimer’s patients being treated at Britthaven of Chapel Hill nursing home.
In February, six patients were admitted to the hospital after they tested positive for morphine, even though the pain killer hadn’t been prescribed. One of the patients, 84-year-old Rachel Holliday, died. At the time of her death, she also had high levels of morphine in her blood. On Monday, registered nurse Angela Almore was arrested and indicted on one count of second-degree murder and six counts of felony patient abuse. In a report from WRAL, Orange County District Attorney Jim Woodall said that the state believes Almore acted alone, and that he doesn’t expect any more arrests or charges in the case.
In a news report on WRAL-TV today, Carma Henson said that HensonFuerst is continuing its investigation on behalf of families concerned about how this type of abuse could have happened to their loved ones. The firm is not limiting its research to Almore’s actions; there is also the question of how drugs are administered throughout the facility. According to Carma Henson, a nurse is not supposed to be able to get access to morphine and administer it to patients if it has not been prescribed for those patients.
“This can’t be just a rogue nurse gone bad,” says Ms. Henson. Her hope is that the HensonFuerst investigation gets a look at the bigger picture of how this and other nursing homes are run, so changes can be made to bring about some good. There are still a lot of people in nursing homes who need help… HensonFuerst is determined to make a difference.
(Watch the WRAL video and read their complete story here: HensonFuerst continues investigation.)
Murder Charge for Britthaven Nurse
June 7th, 2010
WRAL.com reports that registered nurse Angela Almore was indicted on a charge of second-degree murder for the death of an Alzheimer’s patient at Britthaven of Chapel Hill nursing home. Almore is also charged with six counts of felony patient abuse, and is being held in the Orange County jail under a $500,000 bond.
In February, nine Alzheimer’s patients tested positive for powerful opiate medicines, the kind used to control pain. Six of the patients were hospitalized, and one patient–Rachel Holliday–died. At the time of her death, Ms. Holliday had a blood morphine level of 50,000 ng/ml… even though she had not been prescribed morphine.
HensonFuerst is relieved to know that the investigation into patient abuse at this nursing home will continue, and that an arrest has been made. Our nursing home abuse lawyers are continuing their own investigation of this incident. There are many more questions to be answered….
To read the full WRAL story, click here: Murder Charge at Britthaven of Chapel Hill. And if you have questions about what you can do about suspected cases of nursing home abuse, contact our Nursing Home Abuse team–if you have questions, HensonFuerst has answers.
Prison for Former Nursing Home CEO
May 25th, 2010
Every now and then, a story comes our way that makes us wish we could give out awards. Today, in the category of “It’s a Step in the Right Direction,” the winner is: Milwaukee, Minnesota for giving jail time to Karen Mason. This criminal was CEO, administrator, and part owner of Havenwood Nursing and Rehabilitation Center in Milwaukee, which closed in 2005 after a raid by state and federal regulators. According to Milwaukee Magazine’s NewsBuzz, the regulators discovered that nursing home residents were denied baths and clean sheets, and one resident jumped to his death after staff failed to report his threats of suicide.
Mason pleaded guilty to felony charges of abuse and theft (she was accused of taking more than $1 million that was supposed to be used for patient care), and was sentenced to 15 months in jail. This week, she was sentenced to two years in federal prison for tax evasion.
As a firm that fights daily to see that nursing home residents are treated with care and respect, HensonFuerst is relieved to see justice served. We are certain that this former CEO is not the only nursing home owner to take these types of harmful liberties, and we look forward to the day when the elderly are no longer seen as easy targets for abuse. To read more about nursing home abuse, visit our Nursing Home Abuse web page.
Massachusetts Court Denies Prosecution of Nursing Home
May 20th, 2010
In 2004, 74-year-old nursing home resident Julia McCauley, who had dementia, was left unattended and without an alert device on her wrist. According to an article in the Boston Globe, Ms. McCauley “apparently wheeled herself through the double doors and fell down eight steps.” Massachusetts Attorney General Martha Coakley attempted to prosecute the nursing home–Life Care Centers of America–as criminally liable for the actions of all the employees who allegedly failed to properly care for the resident.
The Supreme Judicial Court unanimously ruled that the corporation couldn’t be held criminally liable because “A corporation may be criminally liable for the crimes alleged here only where at least one of its employees could be found individually liable for the crime,’’ Justice Judith Cowin wrote for the court.
As a company that stands firmly on the side of nursing home residents, HensonFuerst is saddened to hear this decision. On the surface, at least, it sounds as if corporations can ignore safety and get away with it. On the other hand, we are heartened to know that Attorney General Coakley isn’t giving up:
“…we respect but are disappointed by this decision. In this case, we allege the nursing home failed to live up to its obligations to properly care for its residents which resulted in the tragic death of the 74-year-old victim. We are continuing to review this decision to determine its impact and will evaluate our next steps in prosecuting this case.’’
Finally…Nursing Home Financials to be Revealed
May 13th, 2010
The Health Care Reform Act provides some much needed relief for victims of nursing home neglect and abuse.
In recent years, many nursing home chain operators have avoided responsibility for injuries and death caused by their neglect. They have done so by setting up multiple dummy corporations and other legal entities to siphon cash away from the holder of the nursing home license and make sure it has no assets a judgment creditor could collect. The licensee is typically an assetless entity, with no employees and no liability insurance… and the real estate and earnings are owned by other entities controlled by the same folks who control the licensed home.
After Congress got wind of this practice, the Nursing Home Transparency Act was passed as part of the Health Care Reform Act. Once the act’s provisions take effect, nursing homes will have to disclose everyone who has their hands in the till or owns or controls the home or related entities.
To read the bill click here: Nursing Home Transparency Act
The lawyers of HensonFuerst are dedicated to fighting nursing home abuse and neglect. We are happy that nursing home residents and their families may soon be assured that they will have access to all financial information of the facility… not just the “poor us, we’re broke” information that disreputable facilities have been able to get away with.
If you suspect that someone you love has been the victim of nursing home abuse and want to learn about your legal options, please call the compassionate lawyers of HensonFuerst. We’re here to help.
Connecticut Nursing Home Hits Rock Bottom
May 6th, 2010
New Haven, Connecticut–home to Ivy League Yale University–is also the location of the latest example of how disgusting and neglectful a nursing home can get. According to a story by a Connecticut NBC affiliate, the Department of Public Health held a surprise inspection of The West Rock Health Care Center. Everyone was surprised when inspectors found:
“Linens that were worn thin and brown; boxes of medical records soaked in pooling water; and a nurse who cleaned an open ulcer with the same ‘fecal smeared washcloth’ used to clean the patient.”
In addition, residents were not given medications on time, and slept on beds that were “unmade and with an accumulation of soiled sheets.” In all, there were 37 pages worth of violations.
The nursing home was shut down.
Reaction of the owner, Anthony Pinto? “This is a travesty,” he said, referring to the closing. He believed everything “was correctable.”
Except you can never correct for the pain and indignity already suffered by the residents, or the extra infections that might have already occurred due to such unclean conditions. HensonFuerst believes that our senior citizens deserve the highest of care, not the lowest. We fight everyday to keep nursing home residents from becoming victims of this type of abuse and neglect.
If you have a loved one in a nursing home, visit often… talk with staff about concerns you might have… and make facilities take responsibility for proper treatment of your relative. If you believe abuse has already taken place and have questions about what additional action you can take, call us. At HensonFuerst, if you have questions, we have answers. (HensonFuerst: www.lawmed.com; 1-800-4-LAW-MED)
What Nursing Home Administrators Won’t Tell You
April 28th, 2010
The SmartMoney Magazine website published an eye-opening list of “10 Things Nursing Homes Won’t Tell You,” which was adapted from a book by Jonathan Dahl and the editors of SmartMoney. Everyone related to a nursing home resident should visit the site, read the list, print it, study it, and post it somewhere visible.
So I don’t give everything away, I’ll include 5 items here (with our own commentary).
- “We’re careless about the drugs we give out.” Some nursing homes have been cited for unnecessary drug use, use of antipsychotic medications among residents who are not psychotic, and overdosing residents so that they are easier to care for. We have seen this locally, when Britthaven of Chapel Hill nursing home was reported to be the subject of investigation when residents were given narcotic medications without a prescription, leading to the death of one patient.
- “If it’s not in the care plan, we’re not gonna do it.” The federal government requires a care plan for each resident, which outlines how the resident should be cared for. Even if something is on the care plan, nursing homes can neglect the promised duties… but if a particular aspect of care is not on the plan, forget about it. Don’t assume anything.
- “‘Neglect’ is our middle name.” When nursing home residents are neglected, they can suffer from dehydration, pressure sores, malnutrition, disease, and sometimes death.
- “We use physical restraints on your loved ones.” Restraints are allowed as a method of last resort to keep a loved one safe or protect others. But that doesn’t mean that use of restraints isn’t abused, and can lead to depression, agitation, bruising, and other physical problems.
- “Fines? Go ahead–give us your best shot.” When a nursing home doesn’t meet standards, it can be fined… but that doesn’t mean that the money will ever be collected. The facility can appeal the the citation and fine, or find other ways to avoid paying. Plus, corporations that own and operate nursing homes at the highest levels (because there are often shell companies that are the “face” of each facility) are usually so flush with cash that a little fine is barely noticed.
Want to read the rest of the list? Check out the original article here: SmartMoney Magazine.
HensonFuerst is an avid supporter of nursing home residents and their families. Our lawyers have been involved in some groundbreaking litigation that have made residents safer, and we continue to work for the benefit of the “little guy” against corporations who abuse and neglect senior citizens. If you think your loved one is being abused in a nursing home and you don’t know what to do, contact HensonFuerst. If you have questions, we have answers.
Alive and Loving, Even in a Nursing Home
March 3rd, 2010
A lovely article in the New York Times (“Old Age, From Youth’s Narrow Prism“) by Marc E. Agronin, M.D., describes how those of us who have not yet attained old age often make off-base assumptions about how the elderly think and feel. We project our own fears and beliefs onto them, while also presuming that we know what they must be thinking. We, the younger, are often wrong.
Can you remember when you were 13? To a teenager, people who are 30 are old, people who are 40 are ignored as impossibly old, and if you’re over 50? Well, life is over, right? Until you turn 30…40…50, and you realize that your older life is not at all what you had thought. How do you explain that to the teenager?
The same with old age. There are changes, to be sure, but there is also life. There is the potential for love and enjoyment. Even in a nursing home, as the New York TImes article so poignantly illustrates.
That’s yet another reason why the poor conditions at Britthaven of Chapel Hill Nursing Home are so disturbing. For years, this nursing home has be cited as providing substandard care, but according to Medicare reports, improvements are not made. That makes it a “Special Focus Facility.” And then came the reports of what seems to be inappropriate medicating of some Alzheimer’s patients with powerful opiates.
HensonFuerst has been at the forefront of fighting for the dignity and rights of people in nursing homes. This article is another reminder that “old” does not mean “oblivious.” Our elderly deserve to be nourished, their lives enriched, regardless of where they live.