Articles Posted in Personal Injury

When nursing home abuse and neglect is suspected in Maine facilities – including those that provide care for vulnerable and disabled adults – it is expected that reports made to the Office of Aging and Disability Services will trigger an independent investigation by the state’s office of Adult Protective Services. However, it appears in a number of cases, that is not happening.old woman

The Bangor Daily News reports that five separate health care providers in a four-county area came forward and shared their referral numbers with the paper. Collectively, there were more than 550 allegations of suspected nursing home abuse, neglect, and exploitation over a four-year span ending in 2015. However, APS had final reports for just 40 of those.

It’s not clear whether the state is simply choosing not to investigate accidents or if the internal standards have changed. What health care providers are telling journalists, however, is that while they continue to file their referrals as suspected cases of abuse arise, they rarely anymore receive reports back from the state about the outcome or even existence of an investigation.

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A decision by the Maine Supreme Judicial Court held that a plaintiff should not be allowed to recover personal injury damages for the wrongful birth of a healthy baby. The child was reportedly conceived after the plaintiff had been implanted with a form of birth control that was inserted into the plaintiff’s arm. mother

The plaintiff gave birth to a boy, who was healthy, in the summer of 2014 when she was 21 years old. However, as she explained to the court, she had visited a health care center to weigh her options for birth control.

According to court records, the plaintiff’s doctor recommended the use of an implantable device manufactured by the defendant. It consisted of a single, four-centimeter-long rod that was to be inserted underneath the skin of the patient’s upper arm with an applicator that looked like a syringe. The drug was designed to prevent pregnancy for at least three years, unless the rod was removed sooner by a doctor. It works by blocking the ovulation process.

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A judge in Central Maine ordered two pit bull dogs euthanized after an August attack in Augusta resulted in the death of a much smaller dog and serious injuries to the deceased animal’s owner.pitbull

The owner of the two pit bulls, who also owns a dog grooming business, had advocated in the Capital Judicial Center to spare the dogs’ lives. During a two-day non-jury trial, the owner had been accused of two civil violations for keeping a dangerous dog. Title 7, Part 9, Chapter 727 of Maine Revised Statutes holds that a person who owns or keeps a dangerous dog commits a civil violation, for which the court must impose a fine of between $250 and $1,000 – none of which can be suspended. If someone is injured as a result of an attack by a dangerous dog, the court can order the identification and confinement of the dogs, as well as restitution paid by the dangerous dog’s owner. If a dog owner or keeper refuses or neglects to comply with a previous court order, and the dog wounds a person or domestic animal, the owner or keeper has to pay the injured person treble damages and costs that are recovered in a civil action.

Chapter 729 of the state’s revised statutes goes over injuries and damages caused by animals, holding in part that when an animal damages a person or property due to the negligence of the dog’s owner or keeper, the owner or keeper is liable in a civil action to the injured person for the amount of the damages caused, as long as the harm wasn’t occasioned by the fault of the injured person. The only time damages would not be owed to a person injured in a dog attack would be if the court finds the injured person’s fault exceeded that of the dog’s keeper or owner.

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The U.S. Government Accountability Office recently released a report that uncovered major holes in the state data collection on the financial abuse of seniors. This, investigators say, has made it all but impossible to accurately gauge the scope of a serious issue. The findings, including state-level data from Maine, were presented at the Senate Special Committee on Aging recently, with the goal of determining more effective ways to prevent, identify, and address instances of financial abuse and exploitation of seniors. The Committee Chairwoman is Susan Collins (R-Maine), an outspoken advocate on elder affairs and protection of the elderly.elder

Data collection on this issue is done at the state and local levels, so federal authorities up to this point haven’t had much influence. Now, the Department of Health and Human Services plans to launch a data collection program that aims to help experts in curbing elderly exploitation. Even the information we do have suggests this is a major problem, with one 2015 study indicating the national annual financial loss from exploitation of elders is approximately $37 billion. Furthermore, these losses are occurring at a rate that study authors say is “alarming.” This newest GAO report, The Extent of Elder Abuse by Guardians is Unknown, but Some Measures Exist to Help Protect Older Adults, is the first time someone has looked closely at the issue of elder financial abuse since 2010, according to The Portland Press-Herald.

Although there is strong evidence to suggest that financial abuse of the elderly is most often perpetrated by adult children, nieces, nephews, and other relatives or guardians, exploitation by caretakers in nursing homes is another issue. It can be a direct indication of the facility’s failure to protect the resident, and it can also be a red flag that other forms of elder abuse are going on as well.

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The federal agency in charge of overseeing more than $1 trillion in Medicare and Medicaid funds has taken a stand against the commonplace practice of forcing victims of nursing home abuse into resolving disputes via arbitration, rather than in court.gavel

Increasingly, provisions buried in the fine print of nursing home admission contracts have required residents to resolve quality of care disputes within this private system – out of public view. Not only are these proceedings confidential, but also they consistently favor the nursing home. Even when damages are awarded to plaintiffs, they are usually much less than what one would typically receive in a judgement issued by the courts. Arbitrators are chosen by the nursing homes, and there is an incentive for them to resolve cases in a way that minimizes the financial impact to the facility.

This, of course, is inherently unfair, and advocates for years now have been calling for the federal government to step in and curtail such forced arbitration. Now, the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services, a division of the U.S. Health and Human Services Department, has taken a major step in restoring a key right of millions of vulnerable, elderly Americans. The agency’s new rule, hailed as the most significant in decades, holds that any nursing home that gets federal funding can’t deny residents and families the right to have their day in court.

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A woman from York County, Maine is suing a beef manufacturer headquartered in New Hampshire following an outbreak of E. coli that made her 9-year-old son so sick he had to be hospitalized. groundbeef

According to a report from SeaCoastOnline.com, plaintiff purchased the meat at a store in Kittery, and she prepared it for her son one day in June. Within five days, the boy began to experience a severe reaction that included vomiting, fever and diarrhea. These are typical symptoms of the food poisoning caused by an E. coli infection. The boy was rushed to a local hospital in York before being transferred for more intensive treatment at the Boston Children’s Hospital in Massachusetts.

The boy was one of more than a dozen people sickened by the outbreak tied to this particular farm, with other cases cropping up across Maine, as well as in Massachusetts, Vermont and New Hampshire. It was ultimately the U.S.D.A.’s Food Safety Inspection Service, alongside the Department of Health in New Hampshire, that traced the outbreak not just to this one farm but to a specific slaughter date. This prompted the farm to recall some 8,800 pounds of raw beef products that were deemed potentially contaminated.  Continue reading

As The Bangor Daily News recently reported, many local social service agencies actively promote awareness of the risk and prevention of elderly falls. wheelchair1

The National Council on Aging estimates that one in every three Americans over the age of 65 fall every single year, and a substantial number of those suffer serious injury, hospitalization and death. This is not only a problem for those in nursing homes, of course, but when it does occur in nursing homes, it can be a potential sign of neglect or abuse.

Falls in nursing homes are not supposed to happen and they can be a sign of neglect caused by under-staffing, poor training or failure to implement and follow proper patient safety guidelines. Nursing homes can and should be held liable when this happens.  Continue reading

A certified nursing assistant who said she was fired from a Maine nursing home when she spoke up about reduced staffing levels that jeopardized patients’ safety is getting another shot at her lawsuit. ward1

The Maine Supreme Judicial Court, in its recent ruling of Cormier v. Genesis Healthcare LLC, found a reasonable jury could conclude the adverse employment action was substantially motivated by retaliatory intent. That means the case should not have been decided by summary judgment from a judge, but rather, it should have had the chance to go to trial before a jury.

Now, with the case remanded, plaintiff will have that chance.  Continue reading

The issue of comparative fault in Maine personal injury lawsuits is a significant one because, depending on the degree of it, an injured person’s right to collect damages may be significantly reduced or eliminated entirely. treestump

Maine Revised Statute Titel 14 Part 1 Chapter 7 Section 156 covers “comparative negligence.” The law states that when a person suffers death or damages that are party the result of that person’s own fault, the claim isn’t barred entirely, but the amount of damages recoverable are to be reduced to such an extent the jury believes equitable, accounting for claimant’s share of responsibility. So if a plaintiff wins $100,000 in damages but is deemed to be 25 percent comparatively negligent, he or she will only collect $75,000 from defendant.

If a plaintiff is determined to be equally or more at-fault for his or her injuries, plaintiff cannot recovery any damages. Continue reading

The Maine Supreme Judicial Court has remanded for further consideration a case in which a wife sued her husband for damages caused by his negligent operation of a motorcycle on which she was a passenger. motorcycle3

Although it often seems unthinkable outside of family court that spouses might sue one another, this case shows how most of the time, these claims are not personal. In the vast majority of situations in which relatives or friends are on opposites sides in civil litigation, it’s not the individual from whom they are trying to collect. Rather, it is the insurance company.

Here, plaintiff sought payment of medical bills and other expenses from the motorcycle insurance policy carried by her husband. But here in Maine, it is not possible to sue the insurance company for liability in an accident (except for when the insurer acts in bad faith). Instead, one must file a lawsuit against the insured. Continue reading