Nursing home staffs have a duty to care for their vulnerable patients, and cases of negligence are a breach of that duty. Families who find themselves in this position must move swiftly because the law imposes strict deadlines for action. The law may, however, delay these deadlines if the patient’s family neither knew nor should have known about the misconduct, which was a key factor in a patient’s family’s recent victory before the Louisiana Court of Appeal.
Delvin Hume’s family placed him in the Ferncrest Manor Living Center in 2009 for a one-month stay while his wife underwent and recovered from eye surgery. Within less than a week, the patient allegedly fell from his bed and missed his diabetes medication because the nursing home staff erroneously refused to administer it.
Hume’s wife removed her husband from the facility and brought him home. When the man visited an emergency room shortly thereafter, doctors found he had a nodule on one of his lungs and stomach cancer. However, when the man died two weeks after his original admission to the nursing home, the listed causes of death were kidney failure and heart disease.
Further investigation by the family allegedly unearthed records showing that the patient demonstrated a lack of urinary output during his stay at Ferncrest, which the staff failed to identify for a period of three days. Additionally, the man suffered from severe dehydration when he was admitted to the hospital.
The family eventually sued the nursing home for wrongful death. The nursing home asked the court to throw out the case, arguing that the family waited too long to act. Specifically, the nursing home argued that the family knew of the malpractice by early May 2009 (when the wife took her husband home) but did not act until mid-May 2010. The court agreed and dismissed the case.
The family appealed, and the appeals court reviewed the case. In general, cases like the Hume family’s have only a one-year period before which the family loses its right to seek recovery. A necessary first step in nursing home negligence cases (like other medical malpractice actions) is to request the convening of a Medical Review Panel. The Humes requested a panel on May 19, 2010, twelve and a half months after the patient left the facility, which was the reason the trial court ruled that the family was too late.
However, Louisiana law recognizes a legal doctrine called contra non valentum, which stops that one-year period from running out if “the cause of action is not known or reasonably knowable” by the injured person, even if that lack of knowledge occurs through no fault of the other party. In the Hume family’s case, the date that the family knew or reasonably should have known about Ferncrest’s misconduct was not, as the trial court ruled, the date in early May 2009 when the wife removed her husband from the nursing home. At that time, the family did not know that the patient suffered from kidney failure potentially brought about by dehydration. The wife only knew that her husband had fallen, had missed his diabetes medication, and was unhappy at Ferncrest. Instead, the family discovered the malpractice in May 2010, which meant that their legal action was timely.
There are several necessary steps that go into successfully pursuing a nursing home negligence case, and many of these steps have definitive deadlines. Miss a deadline and you may lose you right to recover damages entirely. For reliable, knowledgeable counsel for your injury case, talk to the Louisiana nursing home negligence attorneys at the Cardone Law Firm. Our injury attorneys have a long track record of helping people facing these types of problems.
For a confidential consultation, contact us online or phone Cardone at 504-522-3333.
More Blog Posts:
Patients Injured During Transit by Nursing Homes and Louisiana’s Medical Malpractice Act, Louisiana Injury Lawyers Blog, April 20, 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