The Responsibility of Nursing Homes to Protect Residents from One Another
When a family begins the process of choosing a nursing home for a loved one that needs significant medical care, the usual concerns are about the cleanliness of the facility, the attentiveness of the staff, and overall atmosphere of the facility. Most people do not consider that incidents of abuse within a nursing home could stem from other residents. This oversight makes sense when one remembers that most impressions of nursing home life include images of non-threatening, somewhat withdrawn elderly individuals waiting out the last years of their life in passive comfort. However, all types of people find themselves in these facilities, including those with violent criminal histories and other risky issues. One potentially dangerous group that recently made the news are registered sex offenders facing the challenge of navigating end-of-life issues that typically require a transition to an assisted living or nursing home facility, and the residency restrictions imposed on these individuals under Florida law. In addition to the risk posed by convicted sex offenders, a significant number of residents in nursing home facilities suffer from a variety of mental conditions that affect their behavior towards other people. If these residents become aggressive and injure a roommate or someone else living in the nursing home, does the nursing home have any legal liability for these incidents? A discussion of this easily overlooked issue will follow below.
Nursing Home’s General Duty to Protect Residents
All property owners have a general duty to protect visitors and other parties lawfully on the premises from potential injury from hazardous conditions. Nursing homes are subject to this same duty of care, which is owed to all residents. In practical terms, this means if a nursing home facility knew or should have known a particular resident posed a danger to others, and did not implement safeguards to prevent such harm, it would likely be legally responsible for any injuries. Figuring out if a nursing home should have known about a danger is a fact-specific assessment, but generally is determined by whether or not reasonable efforts were made to evaluate the safety of the facility on a regular basis. In the context of a resident who holds the potential to attack others, if the nursing home staff had evidence of a history of past violent behavior or repeated statements from a resident about a desire to hurt others, this information could be enough to say it had notice, and thus, a duty to take extra precautions.
Addressing Patients with Certain Mental Conditions
One particular area where nursing homes need to practice extra concern is related to patients with mental conditions, such as Alzheimer’s or dementia, that have the ability to invoke violent episodes from those afflicted. Behavioral issues among those with Alzheimer’s or dementia are well-documented within the medical community, and can present challenges to caregivers in nursing home settings. As a result, Florida law requires all nursing homes to provide basic education to each employee about interacting with these patients. If an employee is expected to have regular, direct contact with such patients, specific training is required that covers, among other topics, how to manage any problematic behavior. If a facility fails to provide this training, or an employee chooses to ignore established protocol used to address challenging behavior, and another resident is injured as a result, the nursing home could be liable and forced to pay the injured resident compensation.
Consult a Florida Nursing Home Abuse Lawyer
If you or a loved one suffered an injury while living in a nursing home, speak to a nursing home abuse lawyer about holding the facility accountable. The Miami law firm of Pita Weber & Del Prado understands how devastating these events can be, and will fight to get the compensation you deserve. Contact us for a free consultation.