Gregory v. Cott – Nursing Home Staffers Can’t Sue Dementia Patients

One of the cruelest things about Alzheimer’s disease is the way it transforms a person into someone practically unrecognizable. Someone who was once incredibly intelligent and loving becomes dull and distant. A person who was once full of life and compassion is suddenly depressed and easily agitated.
While the disease manifests itself differently among patients, one of the more common symptoms reported by caregivers is aggression and even physical violence. Most frequently, it is caregivers who endure the brunt of these violent bursts, and often sustain injuries as a result.

However, the courts have consistently held, most recently in the California Supreme Court case of Gregory v. Cott, that professional caregivers do not have the option to sue people with dementia for the physical injuries they inflict.

The reason has to do with the fact that it would be difficult, if not impossible, to prove the patient owed an initial duty to the caregiver, which proximately by breaching it resulted in injury. This is central to most injury cases. Secondly, caregivers are presumed to accept the assumption of risk when working with these patients. That is, they recognize potential violent tendencies, and should be trained with how to deal with them.

Still, these injured parties would do well to speak with an experienced personal injury lawyer in Rock Hill, as there may be other parties who might be deemed responsible. Where workers are concerned, there is always the option of seeking workers’ compensation. In those claims, it will not be necessary to prove anyone was negligent. All that is necessary to prove, aside from the extent of the injury, is that it occurred during or in the course of one’s employment. For staffers who have suffered injury, it will not matter if the company failed to adequately train or manage these patients. That’s because workers’ compensation is considered an exclusive remedy, relieving the company of any other legal liability for work-related injuries.

However, it’s a different story when injuries to other nursing home patients or guests is involved. This is more of a rarity, but it does sometimes occur.

Most of the time, there is a reason behind agitation or aggression in an Alzheimer’s patient. It may have to do with stress, lack of sleep, a sudden change in routine, an overwhelming level of noise or other stimulation or an adverse reaction to certain medications. While the actions may seem unpredictable, the reality is such reactions can and should be anticipated – and planned for accordingly. A patient who is known to react poorly to a morning shower may be better suited to evening bathing.

Failure to anticipate and properly plan for outbursts would constitute a nursing home’s inadequate or even negligent response. And when an outburst does occur, home staffers need to be trained in how to deescalate the situation effectively in order to reduce the potential harm to the patient themselves and others.

Improper or ineffective response due to a lack of training too often results in injuries to the Alzheimer’s patient. The patient may be inappropriately restrained, overly-medicated or physically harmed.

Any injuries that occur in a nursing home setting should be reported and discussed with an experienced injury lawyer.

Contact the Carolina injury lawyers at the Lee Law Offices by calling 800-887-1965.

Additional Resources:
Gregory v. Cott, Aug. 4, 2014, California Supreme Court

More Blog Entries:
NCAA Settles Head Injury Lawsuit for $70M, Set to Change Rules, Aug. 8, 2014, Rock Hill Injury Lawyer Blog

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