California Court of Appeals Sides With Hospital in Fall Case

The California Court of Appeals for the Sixth Circuit recently issued an opinion that is instructive in several personal injury legal doctrines in California:  negligence, professional negligence, and the Elder Abuse Act.

In the case, Worsham v. O’Connor Hospital, 226 Cal.App.4th 331 (2014), Ms. Worsham entered a hospital to undergo hip surgery to treat a fractured hip she suffered as a result of falling in her home. Following the surgery, she was discharged to O’Connor’s Transitional Care unit, where, due to alleged lack of supervision, she fell and broke her right arm and re-broke her hip.

Worsham filed suit, alleging professional negligence due to understaffing and undertraining of staff, in addition to elder abuse. Following a motion to dismiss filed by the defendant, the plaintiff amended her complaint, alleging recklessness due to the hospital’s deliberate understaffing. The hospital again filed a motion to dismiss, which the trial court granted without leave to amend, finding that the plaintiff did not state sufficient facts to support the cause of action she was claiming.

The Elder Abuse Act includes physical abuse, financial abuse, abandonment, isolation, abduction, neglect, or any other action or treatment that results in physical harm, mental suffering, or pain. It also includes deprivation of care by the custodian of services or goods that are necessary to avoid such mental suffering or physical harm. The typical sort of situation that the Elder Abuse Act encompasses is that of nursing home abuse or negligence. For example, one common elder abuse scenario is the negligence that arises out of a failure to properly turn nursing home patients at regular intervals, which can and often does result in bed sores.

Under California law, Elder Abuse Act neglect includes (but is not limited to) the following sorts of examples:

  • Failure to assist in personal hygiene, or in the provision of food, clothing, or shelter;
  • Failure to provide medical care for physical and mental health needs;
  • Failure to protect from health and safety hazards; and
  • Failure to prevent malnutrition or dehydration.

The allegations, as claimed, did not fall within the spectrum of the types of acts that the Elder Abuse Act covers, but rather represent a potential violation of other laws. Although the court did not explicitly discuss this, potential alternative claims may include typical negligence for the failure to administratively ensure that someone was present with Ms. Worsham, or perhaps medical malpractice, which is highly fact-sensitive. Either of those claims could have been alleged, but it remains unclear why the Elder Abuse Act was invoked, other than that the plaintiff was purportedly over 65 at the time of the incident.

Nursing home abuse is a travesty that takes advantage of those who cannot take care of themselves.  At Sharifi Firm, APC we will work vigorously to hold those who have abused the elderly accountable for their actions.  If you or a loved one has been a victim, you may qualify for financial compensation. Call us today at (323) 848- 9904 to schedule a free consultation to discuss your case with a California nursing home abuse lawyer.

More Blog Posts:

California Court of Appeals Issues Ruling in Multi-Car Collision Lawsuit, Southern California Injury Lawyer Blog, published February 3, 2015

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