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Jury Awards $5.2 Million to Worker Fired for Reporting Nursing Home Abuse

A nurse was reportedly fired from her nursing home position after she reported alleged abuse of residents to authorities and now, a jury has awarded her $5.2 million for wrongful termination. nursing home abuse lawyer

Although this is technically an employment law case, it highlights the atmosphere that allows abusive, neglectful and negligent actions to persist in a nursing home setting. As our nursing home abuse attorneys know, employment actions pertaining to a nursing home can shed a lot of light into the kind of workplace it was, and therefore the type of care facility it was.

As the National Center on Elder Abuse reports, the prevalence of elder abuse today is roughly 10 percent of all seniors, who suffer physical abuse, psychological and verbal abuse, sexual abuse, financial exploitation and neglect. One ground-breaking study in New York revealed that some 260,000 elder adults in that state (or about 1 in 13) suffered some type of abuse in the previous 12 months. Data from Adult Protective Services at the state level indicate these are increasing trends, and are likely to continue on this trajectory as the population ages without adequate care facilities to meet their needs.

Potential risk factors for nursing home abuse in Florida include:

  • Dementia;
  • Experience of previous traumatic events (i.e., domestic and interpersonal violence);
  • Being female;
  • Low income/ poverty;
  • No spouse/ partner.

Although family members are common perpetrators of elder abuse, those in nursing home settings are more likely to be mistreated by paid caregivers. When co-workers come forward to report such incidents, facilities have a duty of care to thoroughly investigate such allegations and, in some cases, report them to the proper law enforcement and state health department authorities. That doesn’t always happen, unfortunately, which is why it’s imperative that family members pay attention to possible signs of abuse and neglect. Suspicions should be promptly documented and reported.

The plaintiff at the center of the recent employment law case is a licensed practical nurse (LPN) who worked for a for-profit nursing home chain (one that more than five dozen facilities nationally). Plaintiff alleged she was fired because she refused to follow an order that came directly from the facility’s director to “drop a pill,” slang for double-dosing an agitated patient with anti-anxiety medication (something that was not only against doctor’s orders but also potentially very dangerous). At the time, the nurse had worked at the facility for approximately 19 months. She was fired shortly after filing the complaint against her supervisor via the company’s corporate hotline. She alleged her termination was in retaliation for that call.

Jurors deliberated on the case for eight days before delivering a verdict, one the nursing home said it was likely to appeal. Plaintiff now works for another long-term care facility.

It’s unclear if the patient in question had been given such drugs previously in a manner not in line with the doctor’s prescription. The practice was commonplace for a long time in U.S. nursing homes. The Alzheimer’s Association reports many people with that disease and other forms of dementia may experience agitation, delusions, sleep disturbances and hallucinations. However, it’s been well-documented that anti-psychotic medications and anti-anxiety medications not only fail to really address the underlying symptoms, they can be extremely harmful for someone who is elderly and frail. This is not to say they might never be prescribed, but it’s generally shied away from these days. If it is prescribed, nursing homes have a responsibility to ensure the medication is given in the proper dosage. Failure to do so may be grounds for a nursing home lawsuit.

Call Associates and Bruce L. Scheiner, Attorneys for the Injured, at 1-800-646-1210.

Additional Resources:

Jury awards $5.2 million to former nurse at Dwight nursing home, Dec. 12, 2017, By Edith Brady-Lunny and Paul Swiech, Herald & Review

More Blog Entries:

Fort Myers Nursing Home Shut Down Amid Allegations of Dangerous Living Conditions, Dec. 18, 2017, Nursing Home Abuse Lawyer Blog