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May 2019

Georgia Slow to Investigate Nursing Home Abuse Claims

According to a federal watchdog agency, Georgia ranked as one of the worst states for timely investigations into claims of nursing home abuse last year. According to the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services, Georgia nursing home residents at imminent risk of serious injury or death due to abuse are not able to rely upon the proper state agencies to investigate in a timely manner. Federal law requires that state agencies investigate these types of claims within two days of receiving the complaint, but Georgia took as many as fifteen days before sending an investigator to look into the claims.

The federal agency reported that only Tennessee did worse in response times to claims of nursing home abuse, while almost every other state was able to meet the federally mandated requirements. Georgia and Tennessee accounted for over half of the late responses for investigation nationwide. In 2015, the two states received 912 reports of nursing home residents in immediate danger due to abuse and were late in investigating 654 of those claims. As of early 2017, Georgia had a backlog of 140 abuse and neglect reports it had yet to investigate.

The Georgia state agency has blamed a number of things on its lagging response times, including a high turnover rate, job vacancies, and low pay for the positions needed at the agency that oversees Georgia nursing homes, the Department of Community Health. A spokesperson for the agency claims that the initial backlog in 2017 has been dealt with due to an infusion of state funds. However, the number of claims classified as the most severe – those indicating imminent injury or death – are on the rise in Georgia, seeing a 38 percent increase in the number of those types of complaints between 2011 and 2015. Georgia can face federal sanctions if the agency continues to fail to meet investigation deadlines.

Legal Options for Nursing Home Abuse

Despite reports of lagging investigations by state officials, the victims and families of victims of nursing home abuse have legal options for holding these nursing home facilities accountable for their actions. Civil lawsuits can be filed against the facility and individual caregivers, staff, and administrators for damages. Compensation for nursing home abuse includes economic and noneconomic damages. Economic damages include payment for current and future medical bills stemming from the injuries caused by the abuse. Noneconomic damages include payment for pain and suffering, emotional distress, disability, disfigurement, and the loss of enjoyment of life up to $350,000. For the most egregious cases of nursing home abuse, the victim may also be awarded punitive damages up to $250,000 as an additional punishment for the wrongdoer and to deter other facilities from committing similar offenses.

Contact a Lawyer Today

Has your loved one been abused at a nursing home facility? They may be entitled to compensation for nursing home abuse, and the office of Julie A. Rice, Attorney at Law can help. Call the office or contact us today to schedule a free review of your claims.

FAQs About Baby Medical Malpractice and Claims Against Pediatricians

The birth of your child was a joyous occasion, and it’s a relief when he or she has a clean bill of health. However, health care providers must deliver proper medical care for infants well beyond birth, as a range of complications can affect your infant in the first few weeks of life. When they fail or make critical errors, your baby can suffer serious harm. You may have rights as a parent, and an Atlanta, GA baby medical malpractice attorney can explain them in more detail. However, answers to common questions about pediatric medical malpractice may be helpful.

How often do babies suffer injuries because of malpractice?

Fortunately, the incidence of malpractice is relatively low in the medical specialty of pediatrics. The American Medical Association reports that around 34 percent of all physicians have been sued for medical malpractice at some point in their careers; however, only 18 percent of pediatricians face medical malpractice lawsuits.

What are some medical conditions that result from pediatric malpractice?

The US Department of Health and Human Services reports that a delayed diagnosis of meningitis is the most common error committed by pediatric health care providers. This infection can initially cause intense headaches and high fever, but – left undiagnosed and untreated – it can lead to convulsions and even death. In addition, some other complications include:

  • Misdiagnosis of appendicitis, which can cause the appendix to rupture;
  • Prescription errors through ordering the wrong drug, the wrong dosage, or duration for taking medication.

Do I have rights if my baby was hurt because of a medical error?

You may have grounds to file a baby medical malpractice claim against a pediatrician, but these cases are very complex. They’re very different from personal injury actions based upon an accident or negligence, and there are specific elements you must prove.

  • You must show the existence of a medical standard of care, which describes the level of competence and skill that doctors would exercise in providing treatment under the same or similar circumstances;
  • You need to demonstrate the ways that your child’s physician failed in applying this standard of care; and,
  • You must prove that your baby suffered harm because of the deviation from the standard of care.

How long do I have to file a baby medical malpractice claim?

Under Georgia’s statute of limitations on medical malpractice claims, you must file a lawsuit within two years after the date on which wrongful act or mistake occurred. If you don’t sue the responsible parties in court, you’re forever barred from seeking compensation for your losses. However, this time period may be extended under some circumstances, particularly where you didn’t discover your baby’s injuries until later. In such a situation, you have five years from the date that the medical error occurred.

Call Now to Speak with an Experienced Baby Medical Malpractice Lawyer

Though medical errors in pediatrics is less frequent than other specialties, that’s no consolation to parents whose child suffers injuries because of malpractice. To learn more about your rights and legal options as a parent, please contact Attorney Julie A. Rice. We can schedule a no-cost consultation at our Atlanta, Georgia office to review your circumstances and explain how these claims work.

DeKalb Jury Awards $1.8M for Woman Who Died After Nursing Home Fall

Lawyers for the estate of an ailing 70-year-old nursing home resident said the jury’s award showed that even a terminally ill patient’s pain and suffering was not without value.

By Greg Land | April 29, 2019 at 01:54 PM

(Evan Jones (from left), Jonathan Marigliano, Michael Prieto and William)

A DeKalb County jury awarded $1.8 million to the estate of an ailing, elderly nursing home resident who died several weeks after hitting her head in a fall from bed as the linens were being changed.

The jury verdict covered the pain and suffering of Christine Mitchell, 70, but included no damage award on an accompanying wrongful death claim.

Attorneys for the woman’s son and executor said the verdict revealed that a jury could find value in the suffering of even terminally ill plaintiffs.

“One of the interesting things about this kind of case is how a jury would look at her. What is the pain and suffering worth for a woman dropped on her head who probably only had another six months to live?” said Evan Jones of Athens’ Blasingame, Burch, Garrard & Ashley.

“The jury answered that very important question: Their pain and suffering does matter,” said Jones, who tried the case with co-counsel Michael Prieto, William Holbert and Jonathan Marigliano of Prieto, Marigliano, Holbert & Prieto, an Atlanta firm.

Jones said his team made a $500,000 offer of settlement on the pain and suffering claim and a similar offer on wrongful death in September, both of which were declined.

Because of that, they will be filing for attorneys fees under Georgia’s Offer of Judgment statute, under which a party that declines a settlement offer then loses at trial by at least 25 percent more than the rejected offer may have to pay the opposing party’s fees from the date of the offer.

Jones said the defense’s last offer to settle the case was $500,000 just before it went to trial.

The nursing home defendants’ trial counsel was Hall Booth Smith partners Howard Reese III and H. Eric Hilton.

“This was a difficult case with admitted liability and we are sympathetic to the Mitchell family,” said Reese via email. “While plaintiffs sought a larger jury verdict than awarded, we are disappointed with the amount of the verdict and are considering our options for appeal at this time.”

According to Jones and court filings, 70-year-old plaintiff Christine Mitchell had been living at Grace Healthcare of Tucker for more than three years when the accident happened.

She suffered from multiple diseases, including several prior strokes that led to vascular dementia as well as hypertension, epilepsy and diabetes. She also experienced seizures and had fallen several times at the nursing home.

The defense portion of the pretrial order said that, a few weeks before her death, Mitchell had been taken to Emory St. Joseph’s Hospital because she was experiencing difficulty eating, where she was diagnosed with end stage dementia and would likely die within six months.

She was back at Grace Healthcare in September 2015 when a certified nursing assistant attempted to perform an occupied bed linen change, inadvertently rolling Mitchell off the bed. She landed face-down and hit her head, resulting in a cut and a large bruise on the right side of her forehead.

The CNA called for a nurse who applied pressure and an ice bag, and Mitchell was taken to DeKalb Medical Center, where she was diagnosed with a subdural hematoma.

Four days later she was taken to a hospice facility; she never regained the ability to communicate and died 32 days after the fall. Her death certificate said the cause of death was cardiopulmonary arrest, hypertension, cerebrovascular disease and chronic kidney disease.

In 2017 her son and executor, Keith Mitchell, sued Grace Healthcare and parent company Tucker Investments & Associates LLC in DeKalb County State Court, asserting multiple claims including wrongful death, general and professional negligence, violations of federal nursing home guidelines for facilities serving Medicare patients and violations of Georgia’s Bill of Rights for Residents of Long-Term Care Facilities, among others.

Trial began April 22 before Judge Janice Gordon.

Throughout the course of the litigation, Jones said the defendants never conceded negligence.

“They finally admitted negligence on the first day of trial for the first time,” he said.

The defense’s portion of the pretrial order contained a litany of Mitchell’s various afflictions, and Jones said her failing health was a large part of their strategy.

“Their defense was kind of ‘no harm, no foul. She was she was declining rapidly since May of 2015 for various ailments—thrombosis, heart problems, dementia,’ all of which was true,” he said.

“The defense was sort of like ‘I’m sorry we dropped her and she developed a subdural hematoma, but we didn’t cause her death.’”

Jones said key plaintiff’s experts included Macon geriatrician Harry Strothers III and Decatur Gerald Gowitt, along with Philadelphia nursing expert Stacy Donnelly.

The key defense expert was Sarasota geriatrician Bruce Robinson, he said.

During closing arguments, the plaintiffs did not suggest any dollar figure.

“We gave a range for pain and suffering and allowed them to fill in the blanks,” Jones said.

The defense said there should be no award for wrongful death and suggested $100,000 to $150,000 for Mitchell’s pain and suffering might be appropriate, he said.

On Thursday, the jury took about four hours to award $1.8 million, he said.

In conversation afterward, he said some jurors were “concerned that they first admitted liability at trial; they didn’t like that. Where they were unanimous was that for the 31 days this woman lived after being dropped on her head, the subdural hematoma caused her decline and her pain and suffering.”

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