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Massachusetts Court Discusses Negligence Versus Malpractice Claims Against Nursing Homes

Many people entrust the care of their loved ones to a nursing home. Unfortunately, many nursing homes provide inadequate care resulting in nursing injuries and illnesses to nursing home residents. While nursing homes and their medical staff can be held liable for providing negligent care, it is important for anyone seeking damages in a nursing home negligence lawsuit to retain an attorney who can identify the appropriate theory of liability, to avoid waiving the right to recover damages. This was demonstrated in a recent nursing home negligence case filed in the United States District Court for the District of Massachusetts, in which the court held that some of the plaintiff’s claims sounded in medical malpractice and must be dismissed due to the lack of an expert opinion. If your loved one sustained harm because of nursing home negligence, you should speak with a proficient Massachusetts personal injury attorney to explore your options for seeking damages.

Facts Regarding the Plaintiff’s Decedent’s Harm

Allegedly, the plaintiff’s decedent was a resident in the defendant nursing home. Prior to admission he was diagnosed with numerous chronic conditions, including dementia, and regularly suffered falls. He was noted to be a fall risk and to have a tendency to wander upon his admission. After the decedent was admitted to the defendant nursing home he began to fall regularly. The defendant developed fall precautions with regard to the decedent’s wheelchair, but he continued to fall. No other changes were made to prevent his falls.

Reportedly, approximately two years after the decedent was admitted to the defendant nursing home he fell and suffered a subdural hematoma. He died later that day. The plaintiff, the representative of the decedent’s estate, filed a lawsuit against the defendant, alleging claims of negligence and wanton, reckless and willful conduct. The defendant moved for summary judgment on the claim that it was negligent in failing to institute a fall intervention plan for the decedent prior to his death, on the grounds the claim was truly a medical malpractice claim and lacked sufficient expert support. Upon review, the court granted the motion.

Negligence Claims Against a Nursing Home

Under Massachusetts law, to prove a medical malpractice claim a plaintiff must show that a doctor or nurse-patient relationship existed, the doctor’s or nurse’s performance did not conform to the standard of care, and damages resulted. Conversely, to prove a negligence claim a plaintiff must show a duty the defendant owed the plaintiff, a breach of the duty, and that the breach caused the plaintiff to sustain damages.

Here, the plaintiff argued that the nursing home administrator was responsible for developing a fall intervention plan and because the administrator was not a medical professional, the negligence count arising out of the failure to develop a plan was not a medical malpractice claim. The court disagreed, however, noting that each of the theories of negligence asserted under the claim involved a nursing decision that was not delegable to non-nursing staff. Thus, expert testimony was needed to support the claims. As the plaintiff did not disclose a nursing expert, the court found she would be unable to support her claim and granted the defendant’s motion.

Consult a Skilled Massachusetts Personal Injury Attorney to Discuss Your Case

If your loved one received negligent care or treatment in a nursing home, you should consult a skilled Massachusetts personal injury attorney to discuss your case and what evidence you need to prove the liability of the negligent parties.  The proficient personal injury attorneys of Karsner & Meehan will review the circumstances surrounding your loved one’s harm and develop a plan to help you show the nursing home and any other negligent care providers should be held liable for your damages. You can contact us through our online form or at 508-822-6600 to set up a confidential and free meeting regarding your case.