It is unknown how many of our vulnerable elderly fall victim to neglect or abuse each year since such actions are easily hidden from view and underreported. In fact, according to the National Center for Elder Abuse (NCEA), 84 percent of abusive situations involving older adults go unreported or unrecognized.
Nursing home abuse and neglect is not simply a form of medical malpractice. It is a crime. Under Ohio law, any person who commits “abuse,” “gross neglect,” or “neglect” against a patient of a nursing care facility is guilty of a criminal offense. In cases of abuse, the responsible party can be charged with a felony, while neglect and gross neglect are misdemeanors.
But even in cases of neglect, if a nursing home employee’s actions lead to a patient’s death, that can be prosecuted as involuntary manslaughter. Indeed, just recently a grand jury in Portage County indicted a former nurse who worked for Kent Healthcare and Rehabilitation on charges of involuntary manslaughter and gross neglect of a patient who died while under her care.
According to the Kent Record-Courier, the defendant “ignored six warnings in less than four hours given by a nursing aide that” the victim’s “condition was deteriorating.” The Record-Courier cited a 2018 report from the Ohio Board of Nursing, which said the defendant “failed to timely observe” the patient despite the warnings. Nor did the defendant arrange to have another nurse observe the victim or notify a doctor there was a problem. After several hours of this neglect, the Board of Nursing report said the patient was taken to the hospital, where he was declared dead. The Board suspended the defendant’s nursing license indefinitely in 2018.
Shortly after the victim died in September 2017, his brother contacted local law enforcement, asking them to investigate the “suspicious circumstances” surrounding the death, the Record-Courier reported. This eventually led to the indictment against the defendant. Her trial is scheduled to begin in August 2019.
Why You Need to Speak with a Cleveland Nursing Home Abuse & Neglect Attorney
It is always a welcome sign when prosecutors take nursing home abuse and neglect seriously. But it is also important to note that the criminal justice system is not the only means by which victims and their families can–or should–seek justice. In any case of abuse or neglect, the affected parties may also bring a civil lawsuit against not only individual nursing home employees, but the facilities themselves.
Why is a civil lawsuit necessary if criminal charges have already been filed? First, a criminal conviction normally results in a prison sentence for the defendant. It does not directly compensate the victims for their losses. That is the function of the civil court system in Ohio.
Second, a civil lawsuit can go after individuals who are not subject to criminal prosecution, such as the nursing home and its corporate parents.
Third, and perhaps most importantly, the burden of proof is much higher in a criminal prosecution than in a civil lawsuit. To convict the defendant in the case described above, for instance, prosecutors must prove guilt “beyond a reasonable doubt” with respect to all elements of the charged offense. By contrast, in a civil lawsuit a plaintiff need only prove his or her case by a “preponderance of the evidence.” And claims for malpractice only require proof that the defendant deviated from the medically accepted “standard of care,” which is not the same thing as involuntary manslaughter.
In short, if someone you love has been harmed as the result of nursing home abuse or neglect, it is a good idea to speak with a qualified Cleveland personal injury lawyer as soon as possible. Call Tittle & Perlmuter at (216) 308-1522 to schedule a consultation today.