Wrongful death is a term used to describe a situation where a person dies as a result of the conduct of another individual or entity. Wrongful death is usually referenced in the legal setting. Wrongful death lawsuits are often filed in cases involving nursing home abuse or neglect, as well as other elderly care misconduct situations which may have resulted in an avoidable death.
Who Can Sue for Wrongful Death?
The regulations that govern fatal nursing home accident lawsuits vary from state to state. There is some variance in who is allowed to sue for wrongful death. However, there are a number of interested parties who may be allowed to sue in the event of elder wrongful death.
Real Parties in Interest
In wrongful death lawsuits, those allowed to sue are called the “real parties in interest” and may include:
- Immediate Family: Immediate family members are allowed to sue in all states. Spouses, children of the deceased, and parents of an unmarried child are all considered immediate family in wrongful death lawsuits.
- Life Partners, Putative Spouses and Financial Dependents: In some locations, those who were formerly financially dependent on the deceased are allowed to bring a wrongful death suit. “Putative spouses,” people who believed that they were legally married to the deceased, and life partners also may qualify.
- Distant Family Members: Depending on the state, more distant family members like brothers, sisters and grandparents may be allowed to bring a wrongful death lawsuit.
- Anyone Who Suffers Financially: Some states may allow all parties who have suffered financially as a result of a wrongful death to file a lawsuit.
Nursing Home Wrongful Death Lawsuits
Wrongful death in nursing homes may stem from a variety or combination of sources. Wrongful death may result from willful abuse by nursing home staff. Additionally, wrongful death may come as a result of negligence on the part of nursing home staff. By failing to do their job correctly, nursing home workers may cause an elderly person’s death.
Holder v. Beverly Enterprises Texas, Inc.
In this case, an 83 year old woman named Ruth Waites was living at a nursing home called Borger Nursing Center. While living at the nursing home, Ms. Waites became extremely dehydrated and had to be hospitalized as a result. After returning to the nursing home, Ms. Waites developed pressure sores and had to be hospitalized once again. The severity of these pressure sores caused a serious infection and ultimately led to Ms. Waites’ death.
Ms. Waites’ estate sued the owners of Borger Nursing Center. They claimed that Ms. Waites’ hospitalization was a result of neglect at the nursing home, and that this neglect was a result of understaffing. In addition to suing for negligence, Ms. Waites’ estate also sued for fraud, contending that the Borger nursing home willfully concealed the fact that staffing at their facility was inadequate. Ms. Waites’ estate was awarded a total of $83 million as a result of their wrongful death lawsuit.
Georgia Ann Bailey Smith v. Senior Living Properties
Georgia Ann Bailey Smith was the legal heir of Dud Grover Bailey’s estate and sued Senior Living Properties for wrongful death. Dud Grover Bailey was a patient at a nursing home run by Senior Living Properties. Bailey died at the age of 90 as a result of a number of health complications including multiple strokes, iron deficiency anemia, skin breakdown and urinary tract infections.
Smith alleged that the complications ultimately leading to Bailey’s death were a result of negligence at the nursing home facility run by Senior Living Properties. Smith claimed that the facility failed to follow their own care protocols, did not adequately staff the nursing home, and did not contact Bailey’s doctor in a prompt manner when Bailey was suffering health problems. Senior Living Properties settled with Smith for $13.5 million.
Doherty, Shawn. “Nursing home pays wrongful death suit; victim.” Capital Times. 27 9 2010: n. page. Web. 16 May. 2013. http://host.madison.com/news/local/health_med_fit/nursing-home-pays-wrongful-death-suit-victim-s-family-hopes/article_a0baf63a-ca22-11df-a8dd-001cc4c03286.html
Michon, Kathleen, ed. “Nolo.” Wrongful Death Claims: An Overview. Nolo. Web. 16 May 2013. http://www.nolo.com/legal-encyclopedia/wrongful-death-claims-overview-30141.html