The plaintiff, a 90-year-old male with increasing dementia, was placed in a Massachusetts long-term care facility after multiple falls at home made it impossible for his elderly spouse to safely care for him. Upon admission to the nursing home, a care plan was developed for the plaintiff. The plan provided for safety measures due to the plaintiff’s high fall risk, including sensor alarms on his bed and wheelchair and a wanderguard placed around his ankle. These measures were designed to prevent the plaintiff from walking around the long-term care facility without supervision.
Despite these measures, in September 2004, the plaintiff was able to get up out of his wheelchair and ambulate an unknown distance in the hallway before falling to the ground and sustaining a comminuted right hip fracture. The plaintiff underwent surgical repair of his right hip fracture and his post-operative hospital course was complicated by concern for infection. He was discharged from the hospital five days later and sent to a rehabilitation hospital where he spent more than a month participating in physical and occupational therapy trying to regain strength and mobility in his leg.
Unfortunately, during the plaintiff’s recovery he developed pneumonia and ultimately died from complications of this illness.
The plaintiff’s estate filed a lawsuit against the nursing home facility alleging that they failed to adequately supervise him and allowed the plaintiff to ambulate unsupervised, which led to his fall and hip fracture.
The prosecution of the plaintiff’s case was complicated by the plaintiff’s underlying dementia, which made him an unreliable historian of the events that occurred on the day of his fall. Additionally, there were differing accounts of his fall in his various medical records, which made it extremely difficult to prove the actual location of the plaintiff’s fall.
The insurance carrier for the long-term care facility agreed to participate in a mediation of this matter. At the mediation, the defendant challenged the sufficiency of the plaintiff’s evidence as to the location of the fall, which – the defendant contended – was a critical causation issue. The defendant also challenged the extent of damages since the plaintiff died of unrelated causes five months after his fall.
The case settled one month before trial for $100,000 .
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