An arbitrator has awarded $1,000,000 to the family of an elderly woman who died while in the care of a nursing home in Tallapoosa County. The family was represented by Marsh, Rickard & Bryan attorneys David Marsh and J.D. Marsh. The arbitrator’s decision was handed out today, following a week-long evidentiary hearing in December.
Frances Yvonne Lewis entered Brown Nursng Home on August 1, 2015. She was meant to stay for a short period of rehabilitation following surgery to repair a left hip fracture. Instead, on August 4th, she fell trying to get out of bed, striking her head and shattering the repair to her left hip. She died the next day from bleeding to the brain.
When the 79-year-old widow entered the nursing home, she had a history of weakness, disorientation, agitation, severe confusion, and a diagnosis of dementia. There was no dispute that Ms. Lewis was a high fall risk patient. Indeed, the nursing home staff knew that Ms. Lewis attempted several times to get out of her bed to go to the bathroom during her stay. While some fall prevention measures were undertaken, the nursing home did not put Ms. Lewis in a low bed nor place a fall floor mat by her bed. Nor were the side rails raised on Ms. Lewis’ bed at the time of the incident.
The nursing home defended the case by arguing that it met the standard of care on fall prevention and protection. The nursing home also tried to prove that Ms. Lewis did not die from the consequences of a brain bleed caused by the fall, but rather that Ms. Lewis died from a brain bleed caused by an aneurysm or vacular malformation that ruptured incidental to the fall on August 4, 2015.
The arbitrator found against both Brown Nursing Home and its parent company Crowne Management. The evidence showed that Crowne Management had operational and managerial control over Brown Nursing Home.
According to attorney J.D. Marsh, falls are a big problem in nursing homes and this result is a reminder that protecting vulnerable patients like Ms. Lewis is important.