Nursing home negligence happens far too frequently, not only in West Virginia, but also across the country. This blog has discussed several different cases, and how the structure of certain nursing home contracts may affect your ability to file a lawsuit over your loved one's injury or death. Recently there was another case of alleged nursing home negligence in Charleston. Edward Morton filed a lawsuit on behalf of his female family member, who suffered injuries as a result of her 10-day stay at a nursing home facility run by Beverly Enterprises, Inc.
Morton alleges that the nursing home staff failed to provide their patient with enough fluid to prevent dehydration, and had no plan in place to treat her risk of dehydration. The nursing home staff also allegedly failed to provide proper care when inserting the catheter, which would have reduced her risk of infection. As a result of the staff's failure to provide proper care, their charge suffered a urinary tract infection. Morton argues that the patient's stay at the nursing home facility caused her bodily injury and resulted in pain and suffering, mental anguish, physical impairment, loss of capacity to enjoy life, medical expenses, and other costs and hardships. Morton seeks a monetary award in the form of compensatory and punitive damages.
Abuse and neglect in nursing home facilities should be taken seriously. Nursing home staff are charged with providing care to a largely older population that is highly vulnerable, with both health and mental difficulties. Nursing home staff need to be able to give these people proper care that their families do not have the knowledge or resources to provide. For the staff to permit a resident in their care to go hungry, become dehydrated, or to become injured, even to the point of death, is unacceptable.
In the above case, it appears that there was no barrier to filing a lawsuit. However, in many cases, nursing homes have inserted arbitration clauses into contracts, and there has been a question as to whether these clauses are considered valid and enforceable. Arbitration clauses typically state that if the two parties to the contract have a dispute, rather than one party filing a lawsuit, the parties agree to settle their disputes in arbitration. Arbitration is frequently less formal than court and less expensive -- yet at the same time, it also has fewer safeguards. The arbitrator may not be someone versed in the law, such as a former judge or lawyer, but instead may simply be a layperson. Moreover, if the party providing the contract chooses the arbitration company, the company may come to favor that party as a way of earning repeat business. Finally, arbitration decisions can be very hard to appeal, whereas most decisions are subject to appeal in court. The West Virginia Supreme Court has found that certain nursing home arbitration clauses are unconscionable -- weighing far too heavily against one party -- and are therefore not enforceable.
If you have a loved one who was injured or killed as a result of actions taken by nursing home staff, you should be able to hire a West Virginia personal injury attorney and file a lawsuit against the facility, its parent company, and whoever else had responsibility. Your loved one's health and safety matters above all else.