Family Entitled to Trial in Malpractice Claim Against Jefferson Parish Hospital for Mishandling ‘Fall Risk’ Patient

A New Orleans area family will be allowed to pursue the West Jefferson Medical Center for malpractice after a patient fell and suffered serious injuries while under the hospital’s care. The Louisiana Court of Appeal concluded that the family’s compelling evidence, along with the inconsistencies in the hospital’s proof, were enough to create a viable case that the fall occurred because caregivers violated the hospital’s own protocols for handling patients with a high risk of falling.

The incident occurred after Mitzi Matherne entered the hospital due to a hematoma on her calf. Hospital staff provided the 76-year-old woman with care for her hematoma and for “morbid obesity.” The hospital identified the patient as a fall risk and placed instructions that two caregivers attend to her whenever she was to be moved to or from her bed.

A week and a half into her stay, the patient fell and injured her knee, which required surgery to address. The family sued the hospital for malpractice, arguing that the staff deviated from the standard of care. Specifically, Matherne’s fall occurred when a single certified nursing assistant attempted to move the patient back into her bed by herself. The hospital contended that the patient’s fall occurred because she chose to get out of bed alone, without the assistance of any caregivers.

The hospital asked for dismissal of the case, and the trial court agreed. The evidence in the case displayed no notations in Matherne’s medical chart showing that any staff person provided any assistance moving the patient out of her bed. Because of the lack of an entry in the patient’s chart, the trial judge concluded that the patient most likely fell while acting alone.

The appeals court reversed this decision. The evidence showing no entries in Matherne’s chart on the afternoon in question was not, by itself, enough to establish that the hospital was not liable. One of the key reasons the appeals court reversed the trial court was the considerable evidence produced by the patient’s family indicating that Matherne’s health condition was so poor that she was physically unable of getting out of bed by herself, as the hospital claimed. The patient’s physical therapy assistant testified that she provided therapy to the patient just a few hours before the fall. At that time, Matherne could only move about six feet, and required the aid of the assistant, a walker, and another staff member “spotting” them from behind with a chair. The assistant did not believe that the patient could have gotten out of bed by herself.

Another problem for the hospital was that the CNA who attended to Matherne during or after her fall offered inconsistent testimony that was less than credible. The inconsistencies in the CNA’s testimony raised the possibility that the patient fell because the CNA tried to help Matherne back into bed without enlisting the assistance of a second staff member, contrary to the instructions for dealing with the patient’s fall risk status.

Whether you’re dealing with a hospital or a nursing home, patient injuries will happen. Sometimes they may be no one’s fault, but in many cases, they occur because a caregiver failed to do his or her job properly, including failing to follow the institution’s own safety rules. When injuries happen due to negligence or misconduct, it is important to have a skilled and determined legal team on your side. For aggressive and knowledgeable representation, consult the Louisiana medical malpractice attorneys at the Cardone Law Firm. Our malpractice attorneys have years of experience helping families like yours hold these institutions accountable when they fail to provide the proper standard of care.

For a confidential consultation, contact us online or phone Cardone at 504-522-3333.

More Blog Posts:

Lack of Information in Jury Verdict Form’s Dooms Award of Court Costs and Attorneys’ Fees, Louisiana Injury Lawyers Blog, Jan. 5, 2015

Nursing Home Patient’s Choking Death Case Must Go to Medical Malpractice Panel Before Going to Trial, Louisiana Injury Lawyers Blog, Nov. 20, 2014

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