We recently obtained an excellent settlement in the case of an elderly female patient of a Northern Virginia nursing home who was permitted to fall on multiple occasions. As a result of the falls, the patient sustained an intertrochanteric fracture of the right hip and a comminuted spiral fracture of the mid- to distal right femur, the latter of which required surgery to remove hardware that was surgically placed following the former.
The patient was known by the nursing home before the falls to be a high fall risk. However, the nursing home failed to implement with the patient basic fall safety measures like a low bed, fall mat, bed/chair fall alarms, appropriate supervision, and adequate staffing. The nursing home also failed to act before the falls on recommendations by the facility's physical therapy department for the patient to be placed in a gerichair when
out of bed instead of a wheelchair to reduce her risk of falling. The nursing home also medicated the patient with Percocet, a narcotic pain killer, long after the patient's physician instructed the facility to discontinue its use, which resulted in chemical sedation ("chemical restraint") of the patient. A lap buddy ("physical restraint") was also used with the patient despite the nursing home's failure to justify its use in writing, obtain a physician’s order authorizing its use, observe the patient's use of the lap buddy every 30 minutes, release the lap buddy 10 minutes every hour, and document observation and release of the lap buddy consistently. The nursing home also did not timely ensure the patient was diagnosed with injury by obtaining an x-ray, having her evaluated by a physician, and transferring her to a hospital. We also learned the nursing home's staff intentionally placed all of the facility's patients to bed by 7:30 pm each night, which had the unfortunate effect also of increasing fall risk when they woke up in the early morning hours.
The patient's hip and femur fractures and surgery resulted in limitations with weight bearing, required extensive therapy and pain medication, eliminated gains the patient experienced with therapy before the fractures, limited her ambulation to wheelchair/gerichair, caused her to become more dependent with activities of daily living, decreased muscle and motor strength, accelerated contractures and arthritis in her knees, and caused generalized deconditioning.
The case settled in the high six figures. The exact amount of settlement is confidential at the nursing home's request.
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.