$1.7 Million Wrongful Death Settlements
On a Sunday morning, a couple was fatally burned when an improperly installed propane gas system spilled gas into their cabin and filled it with a ball of fire.
The couple had contracted with an installation company for a new propane hearth stove. A propane gas distributor was contracted to supply fuel for the stove and to install an exterior propane tank and exterior gas piping that would connect to the interior installation.
During our investigation, we discovered that:
- The installation company did not obtain a building permit.
- There was no independent inspection of the system to assure quality and prevent gas leaks.
- The 19-year old employee of the installation company had not completed required safety testing, and did not have the required license from the Oregon State Fire Marshall.
- The propane gas distributor hooked up the propane system without the required inspection tag.
- The propane gas distributor did not conduct a pressure test on the system.
- Screws were not tightened on the kit that converted the stove from natural gas to propane, allowing propane to silently and invisibly leak from the stove onto the floor.
- There were several small leaks in the pipe fittings and connections.
A Portland attorney referred the case to us. We filed suit on behalf of the family. The case settled early in litigation for a combined total of $1.7 million.
Unfortunately, neglect and abuse of nursing home residents is all too common. In 2001, a Committee of United States Representatives in Congress found that one in three U.S. nursing homes had been cited for abuse over a two-year period. In Oregon, there is a backlog of 1,200 complaints against nursing homes. Many of these complaints, once investigated by the State, are likely to reveal neglect, failure to follow safety procedures, medication errors, failure to protect residents from other violent or sexually predatory residents and abuse.
Physical abuse sometimes involves situations where a nursing home resident is intentionally harmed by an employee or staff member of the nursing home or by another resident. Physical abuse can also include neglect of nursing home residents, such as pressure sore formation, failing to prevent falls, medication errors, failing to monitor dangerous residents, malnutrition, dehydration and infections. Without sufficient staffing, nursing home residents may wander away from the facility and suffer injury or death.
It is important to record all events of suspected abuse or neglect of a loved one in a nursing home. That record should include:
Name of the person involved, and names and addresses of all witnesses
Description of harm done
Nursing home response
Also, the resident’s general care physician should be alerted and if immediate care is needed, the resident should be taken to the closest emergency room. The nursing home should prepare an incident report regarding any injury or incident and include statements from witnesses, an evaluation of the cause of the injury or incident, and if appropriate, a plan to avoid such an injury or incident in the future.
You should also report any suspected abuse or neglect to the local branch office of the State of Oregon’s Senior and People with Disabilities Department. An investigator should be assigned to the case and should interview all relevant witnesses. The investigator is required to determine whether any wrongdoing occurred.