When a family places a loved one in an elderly care home, they have certain expectations regarding the care that the loved one will receive while they are living there. It is not reasonable to expect that the loved one will be abused while in the care of trained professionals. However, all too often, a family discovers that their trust was misplaced and that their loved one has suffered from an injury, abuse, or even death as a result of medical malpractice or nursing home abuse.
On October 31, 2003, one such loved one died in the care of New York Presbyterian Hospital. She was only 67 years old. She had been a patient at Isabella Geriatric Center, Inc. from the summer of 2000 until October 24, 2003 when she was transported to the hospital suffering from contusions, pain and discomfort, dehydration, soreness in her neck, and stage IV sacral decubitus ulcers. These injuries were inflicted according to her family members as a direct result of the employees of the geriatric center’s neglect and abuse under Public Health Law §§2801-d and 2803-c. The family contends that the geriatric center failed to properly hire, train, and retain qualified employees and that they failed to properly supervise those that they did hire to ensure that reasonable care was given to their loved one.
When they filed their complaint with the courts of New York, they were taken before a judge who read over the complaint. The family had requested permission to present a medical expert to testify on their behalf to show that the geriatric center had failed to provide the minimal standard of care to their loved one and that this diversion from standard medical practice was the proximate cause of the injuries that she suffered and ultimately the cause of her death. The judge who heard the motion denied the family’s request to present a qualified expert. She then stated that without an expert that they would not be able to show a prima facie case of neglect. She then proceeded to dismiss the case in its entirety.
The family objected and filed an appeal of the case which was taken before the Supreme Court. The Supreme Court expressed a desire to not rule against the original trial court’s decision, while at the same time determining that the case should not have been dismissed in its entirety. The medical malpractice suit could have been dismissed based on the decision of the original justice, however, the judge should not have dismissed the neglect case. If the circumstances were such that the medical malpractice case precluded the testimony of an expert, then the judge was within her authority to deny the family the right to have that expert testify in court. However, there is no requirement that an expert is necessary to prove a prima facie case as it relates to the neglect contention. That being said, the negligence contention should have been allowed to go forward. It is separate and distinct from the order to show just cause in the medical malpractice case where the judge would not allow the testimony of the expert witness.
The Supreme Court reviewed the case in its entirety and determined that it was not reasonable to dismiss the case of neglect along with the medical malpractice case. They determined that there was enough question of fact that should go before a jury to determine if a case of neglect was possible. The evidence of the injuries that the Westchester woman sustained while in the care of the geriatric home was certainly sufficient on its surface to entitle the family to have a hearing of the facts to determine if a jury felt that neglect was involved.
At Stephen Bilkis & Associates with its nursing home Lawyers there are convenient offices throughout New York State and Metropolitan area. Our medical malpractice Attorneys can provide you with advice to guide you through difficult situations. Hiring an elderly abuse attorney can prevent you from losing precious time with your family.