We reached a settlement on behalf of a nursing home resident who fell when she was left unattended in her wheelchair and the chair alarm for the wheelchair was disarmed.
The client was admitted to the defendant nursing home as a long-term admission due to advancing dementia. Over time, she lost her ability to walk independently and was wheelchair-bound. However, because of her dementia, she would often try to stand because she was no longer capable of making good judgments for her safety.
Because she was at such high risk for falling, she was often provided with 1 to 1 supervision. The nursing staff was well aware that she was a high fall risk. Due to her high risk of falling, there was a specific order entered by her doctor that a chair alarm should be used when she was in her wheelchair. There were also multiple prior falls which did not result in significant injury, but which helped establish the extent to which the client was at risk of falling
The fall which was the subject of the lawsuit occurred at approximately 2 am. At the time she was left unattended in her wheelchair in the facility dining room. Despite the physician order for the use of a chair alarm, the alarm was disarmed. The client got up from her chair and walked a distance of approximately 110 feet before she lost her balance and fell, suffering a fractured hip.
Our theory of liability was two-fold. First, as a recognized fall risk, she should not have been left unattended. At that hour of night, it would have been easy to provide her adequate supervision by leaving her wheelchair in front of the nurse’s station. Isolating someone who is in need of supervision is the wrong course of action. Second, there was a specific order for use of a bed alarm and having the alarm disarmed when she was out of sight was substandard care. If either of these things had been done she would not have been able to be up walking on her own for such a long period of time.
Following the fall, she underwent a surgical repair of the hip and the family had her transferred to a different nursing home where she recovered as best possible from the injury.
The case settled for $192,500. (Cook County).