Articles Posted in Nursing Home Abuse

Recently, a state appellate court issued an opinion in a case against a California nursing home. The case required the court to determine if an arbitration agreement, signed by the resident’s adult daughter, was valid and enforceable. Ultimately, the court affirmed the lower court’s finding that there was substantial evidence suggesting that the resident’s daughter did not have the authority to sign the form and agree to submit any subsequent claims to arbitration. Thus, the court rejected the facility’s request to force the case into arbitration.

According to the court’s opinion, the plaintiff’s mother was a resident at the defendant nursing home. The plaintiff’s mother had a history of diabetes, dementia, end-stage renal disease, generalized muscle weakness, and other debilitating conditions. At some point during her stay, the plaintiff’s mother required hospitalization. Upon her mother being re-admitted to the facility after being discharged from the hospital, the plaintiff signed a two-page document containing an agreement to arbitrate any claims arising out of the facility’s care of her mother. The plaintiff signed on her mother’s behalf. The plaintiff’s mother did not sign the document.

Later, the plaintiff’s mother passed away from a worsening medical condition. The plaintiff filed a wrongful death lawsuit against the facility, and the facility moved to compel arbitration, based on the agreement signed by the plaintiff. The plaintiff argued that the agreement was invalid because, at the time that she signed it, she did not have the legal ability to sign away her mother’s right to access the court system.

Recently, the California Court of Appeal addressed whether a plaintiff in a lawsuit involving claims for willful misconduct and elder abuse had pled sufficient facts to support these causes of action.  In this unpublished opinion, the court stated that while the plaintiff pled sufficient facts to support a cause of action for negligence, he had not alleged the specific mental state of the defendant necessary for his other claims.

Plaintiff Leonard Thomas was an elderly man admitted to a skilled nursing facility under the control of defendant Country Villa Service Corporation (“CV Corporation”).  After staying at the facility for seven weeks, Mr. Thomas developed pressure sores and other medical issues, including a urinary tract infection and loss of weight.  Mr. Thomas brought a lawsuit against CV Corporation, alleging negligence, willful misconduct, elder abuse, and fraud.

Procedurally, the trial court sustained CV Corporation’s demurrer to all but the negligence claim, and then it granted summary judgment on the negligence claim that survived the demurrer. The court dismissed in favor of CV Corporation. Then, Mr. Thomas died, and his successor in interest, Bertha Thomas, appealed.  The issue on appeal was whether other causes of action against CV Corporation should have withstood the demurrer.  Those causes of action were based on the same set of facts as the negligence claim, but they included allegations that CV Corporation’s conduct was willful, fraudulent, reckless, malicious, and oppressive.

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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.

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