We represented the family of Mary O’Meara, an 83-year-old woman with multiple chronic health conditions who was admitted to a nursing home to recover from compression fractures of her back, and to engage in physical therapy to improve her mobility and regain her independence. While there, Mary O’Meara’s pain patches were stolen on at least several occasions by one of the facility’s nursing assistants, resulting in Mary being in pain and unable to participate in the prescribed physical therapy. The nursing home had hired this assistant while she was still on court supervision for a prior drug crime. The facility failed to engage in prompt investigation of complaints of drug theft and then failed to initiate a report to law enforcement when the employee was caught “red handed” until a state agency reminded the facility of its legal obligation to report.
Mary O’Meara’s physical condition deteriorated due to the facility’s failure to provide adequate food, its failure to provide adequate skin care, and its failure to provide physical therapy, resulting in her failure to thrive and her death. The Estate brought a negligence claim for the failure to provide care and the hiring and supervision issues, and claims for Elder Abuse and intentional infliction of emotional distress for the pain patch thefts.
There was an arbitration provision in the nursing home agreement, and the case was eventually decided by a full arbitration hearing after the nursing home refused offers to settle. It was the nursing home’s position that the only harm Mary potentially suffered was some increased pain for a brief period of time. The three arbitrator panel returned an award of a total of $111,667.75 in damages and attorney fees.
Our client had undergone extensive back surgery at Oregon Health Science University to relieve ongoing pain. The surgery was so extensive that it was staged in two procedures. After some recovery from the second procedure, she was transported from OHSU to a skilled nursing facility for additional recovery and rehabilitation.
The woman arrived at the skilled nursing facility on a stretcher and had a back brace on to stabilize her spine. She was on narcotic pain medications. She told staff at the facility on the day of her arrival that she needed her back brace on when up and that she also needed assistance from staff when up out of bed. Documentation from OHSU to the nursing facility confirmed the woman’s care needs. During her first night at the facility, an aide got her out of bed without her back brace on, brought her to the bathroom, then left her alone. She fell.
The nursing facility did not tell the back surgeon what had happened. X-rays taken that night at the hospital of part of her spine did not initially show a fracture. She was returned to the nursing facility, where the nursing records documented ongoing pain. The facility still did not report the fall to the surgeon. It was not until the woman was accepted at a second facility, which told the surgeon and primary care physicians about the ongoing pain, that she was transported back up to OHSU. There, her doctors diagnosed a spinal fracture with dislocation and spinal cord compression. The woman had to undergo an expensive and difficult “redo” of her previous surgeries.
Our case settled for a confidential amount during the second morning of trial.