Nursing Home May Be Sued For Punitive Damages In Fall From Mechanical Lift

A federal court recently ruled that a nursing home can be sued for punitive damages in the case of a woman who fell from a mechanical chair lift and died the next day.

The judge determined that the maintenance supervisor put the wrong safety clip on the lift. A certified nursing assistant was using a chair lift to move the resident when the safety straps slid off a support bar and she fell to the ground, according to court documents.

The resident's son brought a wrongful death suit and asked for exemplary damages, also known as punitive damages. The defendants argued that punitive damages are not warranted because the death was not due to “fraud, malice, or willful and wanton conduct.,”

The district judge rejected the nursing home's argument because a maintenance supervisor had put an incompatible safety clip on the chair lift. The supervisor had been disciplined for using the incompatible safety clip. An incident report said he knowingly used a safety clip from a different chair model after a supervisor asked him to replace the clip on the lift involved in the resident's death.

Based on this evidence, the judge determined that the maintenance supervisor's action was willful and wanton, because he knew or should have known that using the wrong clip could endanger a resident. For more, read the story.

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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.

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