A widower filed a wrongful death/survival medical malpractice claim against The Medical Resort at Willowbrook, a skilled nursing facility located in northwest Houston, because his wife fell at least five times during her stay.
Two of this 67-year-old high-fall-risk patient’s falls caused broken bones and head trauma and occurred within the first three months of her admission. After the head trauma, the woman’s condition spiraled downward and she eventually died.
An odd thing about the case is that everyone seemed to recognize that this particular patient had a high fall risk from the get-go.
As required by the standard of care, the physicians and nursing staff at The Medical Resort at Willowbrook assessed the patient’s fall risk, determining that she had a high risk of falls because of her physical and mental condition. Among other risk factors, the woman had been diagnosed with dementia and was fed by a gastrostomy tube.
The doctors and nurses also noted in the medical record that they were aware that the patient would lose balance when standing, needed assistance to move from place to place, and had decreased muscle coordination.
Recognizing her high fall risk, the intake fall risk assessment documented that the patient needed the following assistance for fall safety:
• Bed mobility (getting in and out of bed)
• Ambulating (moving from place to place)
• Toilet use
It’s surprising when a nursing home patient has multiple falls in such a short period of time she has been identified as a high fall risk and fall prevention interventions are supposed to be in place.
Facility and other defendants challenge expert evidence
Shortly after the medical malpractice lawsuit was filed, The Medical Resort and the physician defendants filed a motion to dismiss the case, challenging the adequacy of the plaintiff’s medical expert report. The plaintiff’s case was supported by a physician expert in critical and skilled nursing care as well as nursing home and hospital administration.
The trial court denied the motion to dismiss and the defendants appealed the decision to Houston’s First Court of Appeals. Among other arguments, the defendants contended that the plaintiff’s case should be dismissed straight out of the gate because the medical expert assigned the same standard of care for the nursing home, physicians, and nursing staff.
The appellate court rejected the defense argument, recognizing that the fall prevention and care plan is a shared responsibility of the facility leadership, physicians, and nursing staff. The case is styled Apollo Healthcare at Willowbrook, LLC d/b/a The Medical Resort at Willowbrook, Muhammad Hanif, Nabil Khoury, Ashiqueali Poonawala, and Archana Thota v. Mark McCamon, No. 01-20-00801-CV, In the First Court of Appeals. You can read the opinion here.
Whether it’s in a hospital, nursing home, or rehabilitation facility, assessment of fall risk and fall prevention are responsibilities shared by the facility, physicians, and nurses.
If you’ve been seriously injured because of inadequate fall prevention and protection measures at a Texas hospital or nursing home, then contact a top-rated, experienced Texas medical malpractice lawyer for a free consultation about your potential case.