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When you or a loved one develops a bedsore, or has a bedsore aggravated by improper care, there are legal remedies available.

While the prevention of these injuries is rather simple, negligence in their treatment and litigation for that negligence or malpractice is also common.

Out of all nursing home abuse and negligence cases, bedsore litigation falls just short of wrongful death for the most frequent cases.

In this article, we highlight various Arizona bedsore litigation cases that outline the possible settlements that might be available if you’ve been impacted by a nursing home’s negligence and malpractice.

Types of bedsore litigation available:

Bedsore litigation comes in two forms:

  1. Civil bedsore cases
  2. Criminal bedsore cases

For a civil case, the action is commonly brought under “tort law”.

“Tort” comes from the French word for “wrong,” and is a civil wrong or wrongful act, whether intentional or accidental, from which injury occurs to another.

The laws for each area of the law vary, but the laws impacting civil litigation can be explored further by referring to our article, “Causes and Liability for Bedsores.”

What types of damages can be recovered?

Throughout the litigation process, many legal terms will be tossed around. One of these terms is “damages” or the money that can be received for different reasons.

While no case is the same, and the damages will differ depending on the facts, the following damages could be available for recovery by a plaintiff:

  • Economic Damages: These are damages your finances, including, but not limited to:
    • Medical Expenses
    • Legal Expenses
    • Lost Income
  • Non-Economic Damages: These are damages that fall outside the definition of economic and typically relate to:
    • Pain and suffering
    • Reduced quality of life
    • Loss of consortium/affection/companionship
    • Emotional distress
  • Punitive Damages: These damages are seen in intentional wrongful action cases. They are determined by a jury finding that the wrongdoer acted with “malice,” or the intention or desire to do evil or “ill will.” See Newman v. Select Specialty Hospital-Arizona, Inc., 239 Ariz. 558 (2016) (So long as circumstantial evidence is present, the jury should be able to consider whether the care provider acted with an “evil mind”).
  • Wrongful Death Damages: If a bedsore leads to the death of a care home resident, the estate or victim’s family may recover damages relating to the person’s death, per ARS § 12-611. Wrongful death damages (Per ARS § 12-613) can include:
    • Loss of life
    • Funeral expenses
    • Lost wages and benefits

When you instruct a lawyer to work on your case, they will be able to explain in more detail what potential damages you might be able to claim for.

What are the causes you can bring for bedsores?

A cause is any reason you are bringing forth an “action” in court.

An “action” is any proceeding for which one is bringing a legal demand.

Thus, there may be a variety of causes to bring an action for the harm suffered by a bedsore. The most common causes you will see for bedsore litigation include:

  • Intentional Harm
  • Negligence
  • Abuse
  • Medical Malpractice – a subset of negligence
  • Breach of Contract
  • Violation of the Adult Protective Act

How much is a bedsore case worth?

While there is no way to determine exactly how much a case is worth, some factors may induce differences between the damages recovered. Some of these factors include:

  • Age
  • Death
  • Pre-existing comorbidities
  • Other injuries contracted
  • Negligence vs intentional acts
  • Length of stay
  • Status of the bedsore prior to care
  • Complications resulting from care

Examples of Bedsore Settlements:

Frieh v. Life Care Centers of America, Inc

In this case the plaintiff was an 81 year old woman who was a patient at the defendant’s nursing home.

The case was filed, alleging that the defendant fell below the standard of care by failing to properly treat the plaintiff, as well as abuse, neglect, and violations of the Adult Protective Services Act.

The plaintiff developed a Stage IV bedsore which required surgery while under the defendant’s nursing home’s facility’s care.

After all of the evidence was presented, the jury found for the plaintiff $1,500,000 in compensatory damages.

Examples of Bedsore Wrongful Death Settlements:

Estate of Cote v. Five Star Quality Care, Inc. (May 28, 2015.)

The decedent was an 86 year old woman. Her family filed suit for wrongful death action after the defendant fell below the standard of care during decedent’s stay at its long term care facility.

The suit was filed along with abuse and neglect claims.

While the defendant denied falling below the requisite standard of care, evidence showed that the decedent was dehydrated, malnourished, overmedicated, and developed a decubitus ulcer.

The ulcer caused a Methicillin-resistant Staphylococcus aureus (“MRSA”) infection, which ultimately led to the death of the decedent.

After all the evidence was presented, the jury found for the defendant on wrongful death, but found for the estate on compensatory and punitive damages in the amounts of $2,506,000 and $16,704,400, respectively.

Estate of Johnson and Johnson v. Raintree Healthcare Corp. fka Unison Healthcare Corp. dba The Arbors; and Arbors Health Care Center, Inc.; and Westervelt, M.D.

The decedent in this case was a 73 year old male. After a stroke he was admitted into the defendant nursing home for rehab. The plaintiffs alleged that:

  • The decedent was nonambulatory, as in not mobile;
  • The defendant nursing home staff failed to reposition and/or move the decedent. This failure ultimately caused Stage III and Stage IV bedsores.
  • The defendant nursing home failed to meet nutritional requirements for a person with bedsores. Malnutrition resulted in the decedent’s inability to heal and caused further downward spiral, leading to death.
  • The defendant nursing home breach of contract when it failed to deliver healthcare as mandated by federal and state regulations. This care was contracted for with Medicare and decedent.
  • General practitioner Westervelt failed to manage decedent’s medical condition.

Plaintiffs eventually settled with one defendant, Westervelt, during trial for $200,000. After presentation of the evidence, the jury awarded plaintiffs $570,000 for compensatory damages, after finding the defendant nursing home 95% at fault, and the other defendant, Westervelt 5% at fault. The jury also awarded plaintiffs $10 million punitive damages against the defendant nursing home.

Estate of Fassl, Birner and Fassl v. Home Health Resources, Inc.; Brown and Kilman-Lytle; and Golden Years, Inc. and McKirahan

Defendant Home Health Resources (HHR), a licensed home health care agency, contracted to provide Plaintiff’s mother with medical care and diabetic training at Defendant, Golden Years, an unlicensed caregiver, in an adult group home. HHR:

  • Provided Registered Nurses and therapists from 10-17 times per week for 6 months after the decedent developed bedsores. These bedsores only worsened over time.
  • Sought a secondary medical opinion on the patient’s treatment plan.
  • Received recommendation for immediate emergency hospitalization for a rotted necrotic, gangrenous foot with maggots.
  • Arranged with a non-party doctor to approve care orders.

The case was tried on comparative fault, determining the percent that each party’s actions led to the untimely death of the decedent. Plaintiff’s alleged:

  • Arizona Health Services Administration Regulations required HHR to coordinate patient care between the medical team so that an appropriate plan to meet patient needs occurred.
  • HHR failed to recommend decedent be moved to a facility capable of meeting her medical needs, while there was still a chance for survival.
  • The non-referral was due to the $4000-$5000 monthly profits that HHR received while decedent remained under its care.

Plaintiff’s expert opined that Defendant GY could not handle care, and failed to provide sufficient information to determine the size/status/location of the wounds in order for healthcare providers to provide medical care.

Defendant’s expert admitted that the care provided to the decedent was neglect, but that it did not constitute abuse.

Prior to the end of trial, the plaintiff settled with defendant Brown and Kilman-Lytle for $350,000. After all evidence was submitted, the jury found for the plaintiff’s estate in the amount of $75,000, after finding defendant GY 25% at fault, defendant McKirahan 15% at fault, non-party daughter 60% at fault, non party physician 0% at fault, and the defendant HHR and nurses 0% at fault.

Other note-worthy bedsore cases:

Newman v. Select Specialty Hospital-Arizona, Inc., 239 Ariz. 558 (2016)

The plaintiff, 18 year old Newman, brought this action for injuries that he sustained while in the care of the defendant care facility (“Hospital”).

After a motor-vehicle accident rendered Newman a quadriplegic he was transferred to the defendant Hospital for extended care.

Newman went into the Hospital with a wound on his sacrum and during his stay, the wound progressed into a Stage III pressure sore, which did not heal for 6 months. It remains painful and re-opens easily, requiring him to move from his wheelchair to his bed every 4-6 hours to relieve pressure from the wound.

Newman filed an action alleging that the Hospital’s care violated Arizona’s Adult Protective Services Act and sought compensatory and punitive damages.

The court ruled that Newman had not offered sufficient evidence to establish that the Hospital acted with an “evil mind.” The jury still found for Newman and he was awarded $250,000. He was later awarded $112,500 in attorney’s fees.

Newman filed an appeal stating that the court erred in granting the Hospital’s motion for summary judgment on punitive damages. The court explained that a defendant acts with an “evil mind” and thus can be held liable for punitive damages, when it either:

  • intends to injure the plaintiff
  • consciously pursues a course of conduct knowing that it creates a substantial risk of significant harm to others

Newman presented evidence that the Hospital’s nurses were aware of his condition as well as the required course of treatment, but failed to adequately care for his wound, as was proved by the Hospital’s records.

The court found that sufficient evidence was presented at trial to present the jury with the possibility of punitive damages and the case was remanded for a new trial.

Fazio v. Life Care Centers of America, Inc. 87 2005 WL 5340316.

The decedent was a 67 year old woman under the care of Life Care Centers of Paradise Valley (“Life Care”) when she experienced mistreatment and negligence that eventually led to an aggravation of her Stage I pressure sore. This aggravation and the following complications of mistreatment, ultimately led to her death.

Mrs. Fazio spent two months at the Life Care rehabilitation facility after undergoing surgery to remove her bowel. During her time there, Life Care fell below the standard of care for treating Mrs. Fazio by failing to adequately maintain her nutrition and hydration while she required a feeding tube.

A geriatric internist was called to testify and stated that Life Care fell below the standard of care and that the neglect and abuse exhibited by Life Care caused both the injuries and death of Mrs. Fazio. The plaintiff stated that, due to Life Care’s failure to maintain the proper standard of care in regards to her feeding tube, the Stage I pressure sore that Mrs. Fazio had to begin with was able to advance to Stage IV.

Defendants argued that Mrs. Fazio’s worsening pressure sore was instead the result of her pre-existing “end-stage, debilitating, comorbidities.” which allowed the pressure sore on her coccyx to advance from Stage I to Stage IV.

After all of the evidence was presented, the jury found for the plaintiff in the amount of $365,000 for compensatory damages.

What are the next steps you can take?

If you or someone you know has been the victim or medical malpractice or abuse, you may be entitled to compensation.

Do not hesitate to reach out to Thompson Law for a case consultation today.

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