Several months ago, I wrote about the sad case of John J. Donahue, a nursing home resident who died in 2005 after his eye was gouged by a metal hook in an accident caused by negligent nursing home staff. A jury in Plymouth Superior Court in Brockton, Mass., has found in favor of Donahue’s family and ordered the Embassy House nursing home, where Donahue was hurt, to pay $400,000 plus interest for pain, suffering and disfigurement. As a Philadelphia nursing home negligence attorney, I am pleased to see patients and their families successfully hold negligent nursing home caregivers accountable when they hurt the people they’re supposed to protect.
Marlene Owens, 76, of Easton, Mass., has been fighting for years to force Kindred Healthcare to own up to its culpability for harming Donahue, her stepfather. Kindred owned Embassy House at the time of the injury and operates nursing homes all over the United States, with several facilities in Pennsylvania. Donahue was 93 when nursing home staff failed to use a Hoyer lift properly when trying to move him, and his left eye was gouged by a metal hook. His eye had to be removed, and Donahue died of sepsis soon after. Donahue had signed an arbitration agreement that would have prevented him or his estate from suing the nursing home if he were killed or injured there, but at the time he signed it, he was 91 and suffering from delusions. A judge invalidated that agreement in 2009, allowing the lawsuit to go forward. The jury in Plymouth Superior Court agreed with Owens that negligence was a substantial contributing factor to Donahue’s injury, although they did not find Kindred Healthcare responsible for his death.
Kindred Healthcare’s lawyer said that the chain does still ask patients to sign arbitration agreements like the one Donahue signed, but noted that it is voluntary. Still, in my view as a Pennsylvania nursing home abuse lawyer, families should avoid signing these agreements whenever possible. They do not protect the patient’s or family’s interests; they protect the nursing home from being held responsible for its actions in an open court. Under an arbitration agreement, if a patient is injured or killed because of negligence or abuse by nursing home staff, families cannot turn to the legal system — they have to go to an arbitrator, a private legal expert whom the company pays to settle the dispute. This is done outside the public eye and generally by someone who is being paid by the nursing home company, casting his or her neutrality into question. As a Philadelphia accident lawyer, I do not believe nursing home companies would steer families into arbitration if they did not believe they would benefit. When a family member’s life, health, and dignity are at stake, you should not limit your options by signing an arbitration agreement.
Whether or not you have signed an arbitration agreement, if you suspect that abuse or negligence by a nursing home has led to a serious injury or death, please contact a Philadelphia nursing home neglect lawyer to find out about your rights. To learn more or take quick action to protect a loved one, you can call Rosenbaum & Associates for a free consultation. You can reach us toll-free at 1-800-7-LEGAL-7 or contact us online today.