Lemaire v. Covenant Care – Nursing Home Abuse Fine Reduced

We expect when we entrust the care of our loved ones to a nursing home facility, those staffers will treat them as their own. Unfortunately, that is often not the case, and elderly, vulnerable persons are subjected to neglect, over-medication and sometimes even abuse.
In North Carolina, there is a detailed list of resident rights, as put forth by the state Division of Aging and Adult Services. The list is long, but essentially gives patients the right to be treated with consideration, personal dignity and respect, to receive appropriate care and treatment that complies with all state and federal laws, to be free of physical and chemical restraints and to maintain personal privacy with regard to medical records and personal communications.

Violations of these and many other rights can result in stiff fines issued by the state. The North Carolina Division of Health Care Service Regulation tracks these fines and reports that since 2006 in Mecklenburg County, there have been 23 state-issued fines (sometimes to the same facility) totaling $142,700 paid by area nursing homes. This doesn’t account for all fines issued, as in some cases, the fines were rescinded when the facility complied with certain requests.

Among the violations noted:

  • Failure to provide care/supervision of resident resulting in fall injury
  • Failure to provide care/supervision to dementia patient, who was found several miles away
  • Failure to follow doctor’s medication orders, in some cases providing the wrong medication
  • Failure to conduct appropriate criminal background checks for 4 of 5 new staffers
  • Failure to maintain safe water temperatures in all bathrooms
  • Failure to correct and maintain medical records
  • Failure to make sure at least one person was on duty at all times who knew CPR

The report does not say whether any residents suffered as a result of these violations, but certainly, the potential is there. When injury does occur as a result of one of these violations, patients and/or their personal representatives may pursue legal action in the form of a negligence lawsuit.

That’s what plaintiff in Lemaire v. Covenant Care Cal., LLC did in California, after her dementia-stricken mother reportedly suffered mistreatment while a patient at the facility. Her mother died as a result of neglect and abuse, plaintiff alleged.

In that state, complaints for certain statutory violations of resident rights can be brought by the residents/representatives themselves – not just the state. And that’s what happened here.

Ultimately, while jurors declined to find in plaintiff’s favor on allegations of negligence and wrongful death, they did find the nursing home violated her mother’s rights on a number of medical records-keeping issues. As a result, it awarded plaintiff $270,000, which was equal to a $500 fine for each time the record violation occurred.

However, an appellate court recently reversed that finding, indicating the fee schedule should only account for $500 per type of violation – not for every time it occurred. This will result in a significantly slashed fine, given there were only two types of records violations noted.

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

Additional Resources:
Lemaire v. Covenant Care Cal., LLC, Feb. 23, 2015, California Court of Appeal, Second Appellate District Division Six

More Blog Entries:
Monfore v. Phillips – $1M Medical Malpractice Verdict Affirmed, Feb. 21, 2015, Charlotte Nursing Home Abuse Lawyer Blog

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