We reached a settlement on behalf of the estate of a nursing home resident who suffered a fractured hip in a fall from a commode chair.
The client was living at home with her son when she tripped on a carpet, fell, and fractured a hip. She was taken to the hospital where she successfully underwent surgery to repair the hip fracture and was then sent to the defendant nursing home for rehabilitation.
Shortly after her admission to the nursing home, she awoke in the morning and was placed on a commode chair to go to the bathroom. A commode chair is an elevated stool which has a basin in the seat. It is used for people who are unable to squat down to use the toilet. The CNA assigned to assist her left the room. While she was unattended on the commode chair, she lost her balance and fell from the commode chair and fractured the opposite hip.
She was returned to the hospital where she underwent surgery to repair the new hip fracture. The day following surgery, a hospice consultation was obtained, and the family decided to bring the client home and place her on hospice and she died a little more than two weeks later.
The case was settled shortly after suit was filed in a settlement conference conducted by the judge assigned to her the case. For the purposes of the settlement conference, the issue of liability was conceded, but the link between the fall and the wrongful death was a contested issue.
Hip fractures are a significant cause of mortality for senior citizens. Depending on the study you review, the mortality rate for senior citizens undergoing surgical repair of a hip fracture may be as high as 35% within six months following the injury. This is due to an overall decline in the level of function of the injury victim.
In some cases, it is very easy to tie the fall to the wrongful death. This is true when the injury victim suffers an acute event such as a stroke or a heart attack in the immediate post-operative period or develops a bed sore due to immobility. In other cases where there is a general decline in function establishing the causal connection between the fall and the wrongful death is more difficult. This is especially true where as in this case there was another hip fracture which was unrelated to the lawsuit.
The case was settled for $250,000. (Winnebago County).