The patient, a 61-year-old suffering from Alzheimer’s disease, was admitted to an adult-care home in June 2007. In September 2007, hospice began to assist with the patient’s care.
The patient had a history of falls, including multiple falls from bed.
Hospice ordered a hospital bed with half-length side rails from a medical supply company, which delivered and installed the hospital bed and an old style of bed rails.
Several years earlier, the manufacturer of the bed rails had changed the design to prevent entrapment and had attached a warning label to the bed rails to warn users of the danger of bed-rail entrapment.
In April 2007, the patient’s head became entrapped in the bed rail. The patient survived. The adult-care home did not notify the resident’s physician of the entrapment incident.
Hospice claimed that it did not know of the entrapment incident, but it was undisputed that the medical supply company did not know of the incident.
In May 2007, the patient’s head became entrapped in the same way that he had become entrapped in April. This time, the patient died. The cause of death was positional asphyxiation.
The patient’s surviving spouse sued the adult-care home, hospice, the medical supply company and other affiliated entities.
The spouse claimed that the adult-care home failed to take any action following the first entrapment incident.
She also alleged that the medical supply company failed to install the new model of bed rail, attach warning labels to the bed rail and provide an instruction manual that contained information about bed rail entrapment.
The spouse claimed that hospice knew or should have known about the first entrapment incident, and that hospice should never have requested an order for a bed rail.
The medical supply company filed a third-party action against the manufacturer for indemnity and contribution, claiming that the manufacturer failed to properly notify it about the change in design and about the warning labels. The manufacturer and hospice also filed cross-claims.
Type of action: Negligence of adult care home, hospice and medical supply company
Injuries alleged: Death by positional asphyxiation
Case name: Confidential
Case number: Confidential
Verdict or settlement: Settlement (mediation)
Date: September 2009
Amount: $1.635 million
Special Damages: None
Experts: Steve Miles, M.D. (Minneapolis); William Hyman, Ph.D. (College Station, Texas); Susan Renz, (Pennsylvania); Kathleen Hill-O’Neill (Pennsylvania); Julie Bowman (Atlanta)
Plaintiff’s attorney: Stephen J. Gugenheim of Gugenheim Law (Raleigh)
© 2009 Lawyers Weekly Inc., All Rights Reserved.