Nursing Home Abuse and Neglect
Nursing home professionals have a duty to their patients to provide a certain standard of care and quality of life. Unfortunately, some of these nursing home professionals fail to do their duty. This failure is not only a major betrayal of you and your loved one’s trust — it oftentimes results in injury or death.
This type of substandard “care” cannot and should not be tolerated. Washington state is at the forefront of the movement to protect the elderly from any abuse or neglect perpetrated by nursing homes and their employees.
If you are concerned that your or a loved one may be a victim of nursing home abuse or neglect, please call or email our attorneys for a free consultation.
Understanding The Vulnerable Adult Statute (VAS)
Elderly people in Washington are protected by the Vulnerable Adult Statute (“VAS”), a powerful law specifically designed to ensure that they get the justice they deserve if they fall victim to this kind of mistreatment.
Chapter 74.34 of the Revised Code of Washington addresses abuse of vulnerable adults. The statute recognizes that there are some adults who are more vulnerable to being victims of nursing home abuse, neglect, financial exploitation, or abandonment by a family member or health care provider. The statute provides authority for legal remedies when a vulnerable adult is found to have been abandoned, abused, financially exploited, or neglected as defined by statute. Legal remedies to prevailing plaintiffs include actual damages, costs of suit, and reasonable attorneys’ fees.
Who qualifies as a Vulnerable Adult in a Nursing Home?
In order to be protected under the Vulnerable Adult Statute, an adult must usually be a resident of a home or facility licensed by the Department of Social and Health Services (DSHS), or be receiving health care from those DSHS licensed individuals.
The vulnerable adult also must meet at least one of the following conditions:
- The adult must be at least 60 years-old and have a functional, mental, or physical inability to care for themselves;
- The adult is found to be incapacitated under RCW 11.88;
- The adult is found to be developmentally disabled according to RCW 71A.10.020 or who DSHS reasonably believes to be disabled;
- The adult was admitted to a DSHS licensed facility;
- The adult was receiving services from home health, hospice, or home care agencies licensed or required to be licensed under RCW 70.127;
- The adult was receiving services from an individual provider who is under contract by DSHS under RCW 74.09 or 74.39A; or
- An adult who self-directs his or her own care and receives services from a personal aide under RCW 74.39.
Examples of Nursing Home Abuse & Neglect
The effects that nursing home abuse and/or neglect can have on a victim vary widely. Mistreatment can occur in the form of financial exploitation, hygienic failures, bodily injury, and even death. Specific examples include:
- Bed Sores
- Broken/Fractured Bones
- Improper Restraints
- Physical Abuse/Neglect
- Failure to Bathe Patients
- Stealing Money/Property
- Medication Errors
- Burns & Abuse Injuries
- Failure to Clean Bedding
- Decubitus Ulcers
- Injuries from Falling
- Undue Influence Concerning Property and/or Wills
Oftentimes, victims themselves do not report nursing home abuse and neglect because their mental state, physical state, and/or fear of retaliation prevents them from seeking the help they need.
The Revised Code of Washington §74.34.180 protects individuals who, in good faith, report abandonment, abuse, financial exploitation, or neglect of vulnerable adults. If you have made a report, this statute provides certain protections from an employer taking workplace reprisal or retaliatory action against you.
Bradley v. Sunhealth Group
This case resulted in a $3.5 million settlement for a 97 year old man who was neglected in a nursing home. The neglect was so severe that his genitalia fell off. This is one of the largest recoveries for a nursing home abuse case ever in the state of Washington.
Bae v. Lakeside Adult Family Home
This case resulted in a $1.5 million settlement for an elderly nursing home resident who was given the wrong medication (Morphine), causing her death. The nursing home hid their $1M and $500K insurance policies for over four years before finally being forced to pay.
Three of our firm's nursing home abuse and neglect attorneys, Scott Lundberg, James Gooding and Alex French, achieved an important victory for their client that changed Washington state law and expanded protection for nursing home residents in Washington.
In Bae v. Lakeside Adult Family Home, 185 Wn. 2d 532, 374 P.3d 121 (2016), a unanimous Washington State Supreme Court held the Vulnerable Adult Statute (R.C.W. 74.34) creates an implied cause of action against mandated reporters who fail to report suspected abuse or neglect. Before this decision, the only penalty for not reporting suspected abuse was a possible misdemeanor charge, which rarely occurred.
In effect, the Court's decision in this case created new law. Due to our attorneys' successful representation of Bae, there is now a civil cause of action that can be filed against mandatory reporters who fail to report suspected abuse and neglect of vulnerable adults. This means that nursing home owners and employees, all health care providers under R.C.W. 18, DSHS employees, social workers, professional school personnel, and others can be subject to a civil suit should they not report.
The Seattle Times recently published our article called, “Top 3 Tips for Finding a Safe Nursing Home.”
The New York Times also published an article on nursing homes, “In Race for Medicare Dollars, Nursing Home Care May Lag.”
If you have been involved in a nursing home abuse or neglect, please call or email our attorneys for a free consultation