A jury recently awarded an assisted living patient $1.5 million for first-degree and second-degree burn injuries he sustained when he was placed in a tub of hot water. The patient was deaf, blind, mute, suffered from cerebral palsy, and had "the mental aptitude of a baby." The assisted living facility claimed the man turned on the hot water faucet and caused his own injuries. The verdict money will help pay for the man's individualized care needs for the next 30 years. Read more about the jury's verdict.
Burn injuries caused by hot water in a tub or shower are among the leading causes of severe burn injuries in the United States. According to the American Hospital Association, more than 112,000 people go to emergency rooms each year for scald-related injuries. A significant portion of these injuries involve the elderly in nursing homes and assisted living facilities.
Burns can occur after a six-second exposure to 140-degree water and after a 30-second exposure to 130-degree water. Even if water temperature is 120 degrees, a five-minute exposure can result in third-degree burns. Burns to patients of nursing homes and assisted living facilities occur because staff doesn't check the water temperature before exposing the patient and because the facility has not installed safety devices that prevent temperature spikes and hot water bursts.
In order to prevent burn injuries, nursing home and assisted living facility staff should ensure water temperature does not exceed 124 degrees by manually measuring water temperature with a reliable thermometer before exposing the patient to the water and by testing water temperature with the back of the hand. Nursing homes and assisted living facilities should also install special safety valves in baths, showers, and sinks that will prevent patients from becoming exposed to excessive water temperatures.
Robert W. Carter, Jr. is a Virginia attorney whose law practice is dedicated to protecting the rights of the victims of nursing home and assisted living neglect and abuse in Richmond, Roanoke, Norfolk, Lynchburg, Danville, Charlottesville, and across Virginia.
Posted on Tue, February 5, 2008
by Robert Carter