ENTERPRISE, AL – Sawyer Law Firm was recently successful in securing an award in a wrongful death lawsuit against a Montgomery-based nursing home chain. On January 10, an arbitrator ruled that Capitol Hill Nursing Home had caused the wrongful death of a resident and entered an award of $400,000 in favor of the family.
The 101-year old resident was admitted to the nursing home with a feeding tube. The nursing home staff was directed to keep the head of his bed elevated so the feeding formula would remain in his stomach. A friend of the family visited the facility and found the resident with the head of his bed flat with feeding formula coming out of his mouth. The resident was sent to the hospital where he was found to have aspirated the feeding formula into his lungs.
He died four days later as a result of aspiration pneumonia.
The arbitrator found that Capitol Hill breached the standard of nursing care owed to the resident by failing to monitor the resident and keep the head of his bed elevated. “This was an extremely tough case due to the resident’s age,” J.P. Sawyer said. “We tried to remind the arbitrator throughout the trial that this case was about quality of life, not the quantity of life.”
Kathleen Hill O’Neill, a nurse who conducts nursing home investigations for the U.S. Department of Justice, testified as an expert on behalf of the family. O’Neill testified the failure to keep the head of the bed elevated was a violation of basic nursing practice. In support of her opinion that the nursing staff failed to monitor the resident, O’Neill pointed to the fact that the nurses who were checking the resident noted that he had no bedsores, but when he arrived at the hospital he was noted to have six bedsores.
“I hope this will convey the message to nursing homes that they will be held responsible for the mistreatment of the vulnerable – regardless of their age or medical condition,” Sawyer said.
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