Nursing Home Sued for Hiring Strippers

April 17, 2014 by Ryan Simmons

A New York nursing home is in hot water after reports surfaced that the facility hired a male stripper to dance for its patients. East Neck Nursing and Rehabilitation Center, located in West Babylon, New York, reportedly hired a male stripper to perform at the facility for its elderly residents. When East Neck residents’ family members became aware of the incident, they were displeased, to say the least.

After seeing a photograph of his 85-year-old mother, Bernice Youngblood, placing money into the underwear of the male dancer who was performing at East Neck, Franklin Youngblood became furious. He confronted an East Neck employee about the situation, but the employee allegedly laughed the situation off. Mr. Youngblood has since filed suit against the facility, claiming that his mother was both humiliated and degraded.

Bernice Youngblood, a five-year resident of the nursing home facility, is suffering from dementia. In his court pleadings, Mr. Youngblood has alleged that his mother was “placed in apprehension of imminent, offensive physical harm, as she was confused and bewildered as to why a muscular, almost nude man, was approaching her and placing his body and limbs over her.” Additionally, John Ray, the lawyer who represents the Youngbloods, claims that “[Bernice Youngblood] was told by the staff that she was to put her money in his pants.”

On the other hand, the nursing home’s lawyer, Howard Fensterman, explained that it was the residents themselves that elected to hire the stripper. He states that a sixteen-member panel of residents agreed to pay the stripper $250 to perform at the facility. Fensterman claims that there was nothing inappropriate about the incident. Nevertheless, Mr. Youngblood is currently making arrangements to remove his mother from East Neck Nursing and Rehabilitation Center.

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Tennessee Low-T Litigation

April 14, 2014 by Jim Higgins

We are currently reviewing Low T cases in Tennessee. These cases involve clients that suffered a stroke or heart attack after receiving testosterone therapy. We recently gave an interview on these cases and you can learn more by watching it here:

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Nursing Home Execs Donate Money to Arkansas Judicial Campaigns

April 7, 2014 by Ryan Simmons

According to new reports, key players in Arkansas’s nursing home industry have donated tens of thousands of dollars to a number of Arkansas judges and judicial candidates in recent months. The Arkansas Times reported that substantial contributions were made to the campaigns of Rhonda Wood, Karen Barker, Robin Wynne, and Mike Maggio by people associated with the state’s nursing home industry.

Arkansas Court of Appeals Judge Rhonda Wood is running unopposed for a seat on the Arkansas Supreme Court. According to her first campaign report, Judge Wood has received around $70,000 in campaign contributions from members of the nursing home industry. This accounts for over half of her total campaign funding. Similarly, Justice Karen Baker of the Arkansas Supreme Court, who is running unopposed for a second term, received $20,000 of a total $27,000 in campaign donations from the nursing home industry, per her first campaign report. Judge Robin Wynne’s Arkansas Supreme Court campaign has also received donations from the nursing home industry—two thirds of the donations listed in his first report came from the nursing home industry.

Circuit Judge Mike Maggio is another recipient of nursing home industry money. He received donations from seven political action committees (PACs) associated with the nursing home industry in December of 2013 and in January of this year. Interestingly, the particular PACs that donated to Maggio’s campaign are all linked to the same benefactor—Michael Morton. Morton is the same contributor who donated to the Wood, Baker, and Wynn campaigns. More interestingly, each of these seven PACs received a $3000 donation on July 8, 2013 from Michael Morton or a Morton-owned entity. July 8, 2013 also happened to be the day that Judge Maggio granted a motion for a remittitur hearing (which allows the judge to reduce an excessive jury verdict) in a case involving a $5.2 million verdict against a Morton-managed nursing home.

Mike Maggio has since withdrawn from the Court of Appeals race. His withdrawal was related to the publication of a number of homophobic, sexist, and racist comments posted by him on an online message board, as well as to his leaking of details concerning confidential adoption proceedings involving actress Charlize Theron. Since the allegations of improper campaign financing have come to light, Maggio’s circuit court caseload has been reassigned.

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Recent Events Involving Nursing Home Abuse

March 31, 2014 by Ryan Simmons

Nursing home abuse continues to be a problem in many states. Below is a summary of some of the recent events involving nursing home litigation that are making headlines across the country.

Florida Legislation

Florida legislators, led by Senator John Thraser, R-St. Augustine, are working this month to pass a new bill concerning nursing home litigation through the Florida state Senate. SB 670 would limit the potential defendants to a nursing home abuse lawsuit. The bill seeks to prevent those with only a passive interest in a nursing home from being exposed to legal liability. The law, if passed, will only allow nursing home operators, management, and caregivers to be named as defendants in a suit brought by nursing home residents or family members. Senator Thraser, R-St. Augustine, has said of the bill: “It won’t be some person [being sued] who is not in the nursing home and has no knowledge of its day-to-day operations.” Rather, the goal is to hold responsible those who actually had some role in the wrongdoing.

SB 670 is a companion bill to the House version backed by Representative Matt Gaetz, R-Fort Walton Beach. HB 569 received a unanimous vote last week. Detractors of the bill claim that the law strips nursing home residents of their rights by immunizing culpable parties.

Million Dollar WV Verdict

West Virginia’s state Supreme Court heard arguments in a seminal nursing home litigation case earlier this month. The case involves a $90 million verdict awarded to the family of a former nursing home resident by a jury in West Virginia. The family alleged that Heartland of Charleston nursing home employees neglected to feed and provide adequate care to Dorothy Douglas, and ultimately caused her death. The nursing home appealed the verdict.

The attorneys representing Heartland of Charleston argued before the West Virginia Supreme Court in early March claiming that the verdict is subject to the state’s medical malpractice damages cap and should therefore be reduced. The cap, codified in West Virginia’s Medical Professional Liability Act, states that plaintiffs alleging medical malpractice may recover no more than $500,000 in non-economic damages. Ms. Douglas’s attorneys argued that the cap should not apply because Ms. Douglas’ death was a result of ordinary negligence, not medical negligence. This was the jury’s conclusion as well (the jury found that 80% of the negligence that occurred was ordinary negligence, and only 20% was medical negligence).

The Court’s decision in this case is extremely significant. As Ben Bailey, one of the defense attorneys, put it, “[n]ursing home litigation . . . has come to a screeching halt until this case is decided.” The decision has the potential to change the way that all future nursing home abuse cases are treated in West Virginia.

Fines in Connecticut

Four Connecticut nursing homes were fined recently for instances of resident abuse and/or neglect. The Connecticut Department of Public Health fined Arden House of Hamden for an incident involving the physical abuse of a resident by a nurses’ aide. A second facility, Highlands Health Care Center, was fined in connection with two separate incidents: the first involving a resident who fell after being left unattended in a bathroom, and the second involving a resident who developed a pressure sore (or bed sore) on his heel while in the facility’s care. The third nursing home fined, Cassena Care of Norwalk, was cited for allowing a resident with dementia to fall while in the shower after becoming visibly agitated. Finally, St. Joseph’s Living Center, was fined for a situation involving a resident who was found bleeding on the ground after becoming confused and disoriented.

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Winning a Tennessee Slip and Fall Case

March 12, 2014 by Jim Higgins

How hard is it to win a slip and fall case in Tennessee? Very hard! People often think that if they are injured at a business the store will automatically pay for any medical bills or damages. Well that is not the case. Just like if someone fell at your house just because they were clumsy you will not have to pay for their damages. To win a fall case you have to show the business created the danger or knew (should have know) about the danger and did nothing to fix it or worn people about it. Not easy. I was recently interviewed about these cases and how to increase your chances of winning them at trial. You can watch the interview below:

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Drug Causing Growth of Male Breast Tissue

February 28, 2014 by Ryan Simmons

Litigation involving the drug Risperdal is gaining traction in many states across the country. Risperdal is a drug that is intended to treat schizophrenia, bipolar disorder and symptoms of autism, and is often prescribed to children. It contains the antipsychotic drug risperidone and is considered to be an “atypical antipsychotic.” The designation “atypical” generally denotes a safer medication with fewer side effects; however, there are many known side effects associated with this drug. The most common side effects include lightheadedness, drowsiness, dizziness, tiredness, impaired cognitive functioning, nausea, and weight gain.

Unfortunately, a new and much more abnormal side effect is being seen in many of those who take the medicine. Boys and young men who take Risperdal have reported the development and growth of male breast tissue—a condition known as gynecomastia. Gynecomastia results when levels of prolactin—a hormone in the body that facilitates human reproductive health—increase significantly beyond normal. Interestingly, the potential for increased prolactin in those who took Rispedal was a known consequence of the drug. In 2006, the Journal of Clinical Psychopharmacology published a study that linked Risperdal to increases in prolactin levels and gynecomastia. The study explained: “Risperidone administered to adolescents at doses commonly used for the treatment of psychotic symptoms can strongly increase prolactin levels, with clinical consequences such as gynecomastia and/or galactorrhea. Given that the long-term effects . . . are not well documented, especially regarding osteopenia, infertility, growth, and pubertal delay, risperidone should be administered with caution to children and adolescents.”

It is this specific side effect that has prompted the onslaught of litigation over the drug. The development of breast tissue in males, especially young boys, can cause severe and lasting emotional and psychological consequences. Furthermore, surgery is often required to fix the effects that Risperdal can have on the body (procedures range from liposuction to mastectomies). Over 400 lawsuits have been filed against Johnson & Johnson, the drug’s manufacturer, regarding the development of gynecomastia in those who have taken the medication. The company has come under attack for allowing the marketing of off-label uses for Risperdal; specifically, for allowing the drug to be prescribed to young children.

Additionally, Johnson & Johnson is facing attacks from the U.S. Food and Drug Administration and the U.S. Department of Justice for its allegedly illegal marketing practices. Recently, Johnson & Johnson and one of its subsidiaries, Janssen Pharmaceuticals, settled with the Department of Justice for $2.2 million to resolve all criminal and civil charges related to their marketing of Risperdal.

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Tennessee Chiropractic Malpractice Cases

February 20, 2014 by Jim Higgins

I was recently interviewed about some Chiropractic Malpractice cases we handled. They involved strokes that occurred during neck manipulations. You can watch the interview below:

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Man Dies at Florida Nursing Home Facility

January 15, 2014 by Ryan Simmons

A 93-year-old man died last year after being left unattended at a nursing home facility in Southern Florida. Alfonso Jansen was residing at ManorCare Health Services, located in Plantation, Florida, when he died on October 5, 2013. ManorCare is a skilled nursing home facility that provides both short- and long-term care, post-hospital care, rehabilitation therapy, skilled nursing and medical care.

According to the records, Mr. Jansen was taken to an outdoor courtyard and subsequently left unattended for nearly four hours in 88 degree weather. Autopsy results indicate that Mr. Jansen suffered from second- and third-degree burns, and “thermal exposure” was listed as one factor in his death. Mr. Jansen’s family was shocked by the news of his passing. The Jansen family attorney, Michael Freedland, summed it up when he said, “[H]is family expected that he would be cared for and treated with dignity and respect, and instead they left him out there and he literally baked to death in the hot Florida sun.”

A spokesperson for ManorCare said in a statement, “The staff at ManorCare-Plantation is deeply sadden by Mr. Hansen’s death,” but declined to comment any further, citing patient confidentiality. One former nursing home employee is, though, speaking out against the facility.
A woman who previously worked for one of ManorCare’s sister facilities has stated that she witnessed working conditions worsen over the last few years as budgets decreased. She explained that previously a nursing assistant would be in charge of eight patients on any given shift, but now that number is closer to ten or eleven. Furthermore, night shift employees might have up to twenty patients.

The statements of this former ManorCare employee highlight the importance of talking to nursing home staff about the standard of care provided at their facilities. If you suspect that your loved one is the victim of abuse or neglect, it’s best to go right to the source to try and resolve the situation. Although you may feel hesitant about accusing an employee directly, it is obviously the employees themselves that know the most about the quality of care your loved one is receiving. Current and former employees can be great assets as you attempt to hold accountable those responsible for any harm caused to your loved one. As evidenced by this ManorCare employee’s statements, sometimes people are just waiting for an opportunity to speak out against a facility’s substandard health care practices.

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Tennessee Rehab Facility Settle Suit Over Patient’s Death

January 10, 2014 by Ryan Simmons

A Tennessee rehab facility recently settled a case involving the 2010 death of one of its patients. Twenty-nine year-old Lindsay Poteet checked into New Life Lodge rehabilitation center in 2010 seeking treatment for drug and alcohol addiction. She died in September of that year after being transported to a Nashville area hospital. Ms. Poteet had a seventeen-month-old daughter.

The patient’s family filed suit the following year, seeking over thirty million dollars in compensatory and punitive damages. If pretrial hearings are any indication, the case was shaping up to be highly contentious. The attorneys argued over several issues, including the admissibility of Ms. Poteet’s prior drug use, whether or not to release the names of New Life’s other patients, and whether the facility was adequately staffed. Primarily in dispute was the facility’s decision to transport Ms. Poteet to the Nashville hospital in a company-owned vehicle instead of an ambulance or other emergency vehicle. Poteet collapsed during the drive, but did not receive emergency treatment until after the New Life staff member called 911. It is unclear whether this delay contributed to Ms. Poteet’s death.

Other facts surrounding the case remain unclear because the terms of the settlement agreement are confidential. What is known, however, is that two other cases involving deaths at New Life Lodge are still pending in Tennessee courts, and New Life has become the subject of an investigation by Tennessee’s Attorney General. Additionally, it is known that sometime in 2012 state officials closed New Life Lodge temporarily. The center eventually reopened, albeit at reduced capacity.

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The Impact of Tennessee Medical Malpractice Reform

January 2, 2014 by Ryan Simmons

In the last five years, the Tennessee legislature has made several changes to the state’s laws that have significantly impacted the Tennessee Medical Malpractice Act. In 2008, two new statutes were enacted which changed the way a medical malpractice case is initially brought. Tenn. Code Ann. § 29–26–121, known as the “notice statute,” requires the plaintiff in a health care liability action to provide the defendant with pre-suit notice of the claim. Under this new law, the plaintiff must give the defendant notice at least 60 days before filing the complaint. The second statute, Tenn. Code Ann. § 29–26–122, requires a plaintiff to file a "certificate of good faith" with his or her complaint. This means that the plaintiff has had a qualified expert review the case and certify that it has merit.

A few years later, the Tennessee General Assembly passed sweeping tort reform, and, in the process, considerably affected the state’s medical malpractice laws. The legislation, known as the Tennessee Civil Justice Act, was signed into law on June 16, 2011 and applies to actions that accrue on or after October 1, 2011. Most notably, the statute instituted monetary caps on noneconomic and punitive damages. There is now a $750,000 cap for noneconomic damages, and punitive damages are capped at the greater of twice the compensatory damages or $500,000. The Tennessee Civil Justice Act did more than cap damages though. The statute now provides definitions of the terms “health care provider” and “health care liability action.” Notably, health care liability action now includes “any civil action, including claims against the state, alleging that a health care provider or providers have caused an injury related to the provision of or failure to provide health care services, regardless of the theory of liability on which the action is based.” The definitions were added in order to make clear the applicability of the Tennessee Medical Malpractice Act.

Now, several years later, we are beginning to see the influence these changes have had on Tennessee’s medical malpractice cases. According to studies, the number of health care liability lawsuits (or medical malpractice lawsuits) filed in Tennessee since the changes were first implemented in 2008 has decreased by 36%. Five hundred and eighty-four (584) medical malpractice lawsuits were filed in 2007; last year, only 374 suits were filed.

Proponents of the reform state that the decrease in claims proves that the change in the law operated to reduce frivolous lawsuits. Plaintiff’s lawyers, however, claim that the changes favor health care providers and made it nearly impossible to hold doctors and nurses accountable for their mistakes. They assert that the new certifying process has complicated the procedure for filing a claim and has seriously increased the cost of trial preparation. Regardless of who is right, one thing remains clear: defendants still win the overwhelming majority of medical malpractice trials. See The Tennessee Bar Association.

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New Regulations Upsetting Truck Drivers

December 18, 2013 by Ryan Simmons

Nearly a decade ago, the United States Department of Transportation (DOT) began making efforts to reform the rules and regulations that govern our nation’s truck drivers. In order to reduce roadway accidents and promote highway safety, the DOT began reducing the number of hours worked by truck drivers. On July 1, 2013, the department issued a rule limiting the number of hours a driver could work and implementing required breaks. The new rule reduces the average maximum weekly hours worked to 70 hours. This is a 15% reduction—down from 82 hours per week. The rule also prohibits a driver from working if more than eight hours have passed since the driver’s last sleep break or off-duty period, which must have last for at least thirty minutes. The DOT explained: “The goal of this rulemaking is to reduce excessively long work hours that increase both the risk of fatigue-related crashes and long-term health problems for drivers. The objective of this rule, therefore, is to reduce both acute and chronic fatigue . . . .”

While it appears the U.S. Department of Transportation had the best interests of the truck drivers in mind when formulating these changes, the drivers are none too pleased about the new rules. Arkansas Trucking Association board member, Greg Carman, and vice chairman of the American Trucking Association, Duane Long, are two of the many truck drivers voicing their opinions on the restrictive new rules. Carman stated: “The agency used logic that forcing break, rest or driving periods at a particular time was a one size fits all proposition. [Data] were introduced by people that have never experienced being in a truck.” Echoing these sentiments, Mr. Long explained that “[T]he gap between the administration’s rhetoric and the trucking industry’s operating reality is very wide. These changes are having a very real and very negative impact on hundreds of thousands of drivers and motor carriers.” Additional criticism of the rules is also undoubtedly a result of the estimated $470 million in added expenses the trucking industry in now facing due to these changes.

Despite the negative comments by those in the trucking industry, the Department of Transportation stands by its revisions. DOT officials defend their actions by citing fewer accidents and fatalities in recent years than in those before the changes took place. Ultimately, the department and its officials are concerned with the health and safety of truck drivers and other drivers on the road, and they feel as though their efforts to improve safety are the top priority.

Nevertheless, those in Washington who represent the interests of the truckers are seeking to delay the implementation of the DOT’s new rules. United States Representative Richard Hanna, R-N.Y., filed the TRUE Safety Act in an attempt to delay such implementation until the accuracy and reliability of the methodology underlying the changes in the rules can be determined. The bill is expected to pass the House, but likely will not survive a vote in the Senate.

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How Much Do You Know About Your Birth Control?

December 11, 2013 by Ryan Simmons

Pills, patches and medical devices intended to prevent pregnancy are as easily attainable these days as medicine to cure the common cold, but most women are not familiar with the dangerous side effects associated with their chosen form of birth control. Recently, however, there have been numerous reports of injury connected to two forms of birth control: the combined oral contraceptive pill (commonly referred to as the “birth control pill”) and the intrauterine device (IUD).

According to recent studies, the birth control pill is the most popular form of birth control among women between the ages of 15 and 44. Approximately ten million women are prescribed the birth control pill in the United States alone. Nevertheless, some of the newest forms of the pill, those containing the hormone drospirenone (a fourth-generation progestin), have been shown to cause a high risk of blood clots in the women who take them. Other complications include gallbladder disease, elevated potassium levels, pulmonary embolism, stroke and death. The French National Agency for the Safety of Drugs and Health Products reported that between the years 2000 and 2011 the third- and fourth-generation progestin pills were responsible for nearly twice as many deaths as the earlier forms of the pill.

Bayer Healthcare Pharmaceutical’s Yaz, Yasmin and BeYaz are three of the most-litigated birth control medications. Over the last few years, Bayer has faced a flood of lawsuits over the pills’ reportedly high risk for blood clots, and an onslaught of negative press after the company was slammed for its misleading advertisements. In July of this year, the pharmaceutical company settled nearly 7,000 claims for a total of $1.4 billion. Nearly 5,500 claims related to these drugs and their generic counterparts, Ocella and Gianvi, are still pending.

The birth control pill isn’t the only method of contraceptive that has been found to have serious risks associated with it. Recently, certain IUDs have been shown to be defective. An IUD is a small plastic device that is implanted into a woman’s uterus. It is intended to prevent unwanted pregnancy for up to five years by releasing small doses of the hormone levonorgestrel. The associated risks include: perforation of the uterine wall, embedment in the uterine wall, ectopic pregnancy, intrauterine pregnancy, sepsis and pelvic inflammatory disease. Bayer’s IUD, Mirena, is the most recent birth control device to become the subject of litigation.

On September 20, 2013, a lawsuit was filed in the Superior Court of New Jersey on behalf of a Tennessee woman who suffered significant injuries when her IUD became dislodged and migrated outside her uterus. The plaintiff is suing to recover for severe and permanent physical injuries, pain and suffering, medical expenses and lost wages. The lawsuit alleges that Bayer Healthcare Pharmaceutical knew that Mirena was defective and failed to warn consumers of the risks.

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