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Southern California Nursing Home Fined for Patient's Death from a Preventable Fall Accident

December 31, 1969

The California Department of Public Health has fined a Southern California nursing home $100,000 because of a patient's death from a preventable fall. The resident, who was admitted to the Aviara Healthcare Center for physical therapy after undergoing hip surgery, was involved in two fall accidents over a 24-hour period in May.

The first time he fell, the patient did not get hurt. Nursing home workers placed an alarm on his gown. Yet no one responded when the resident climbed out of bed and entered the hallway. There was no handrail on the wall in that area. The resident stumbled, grabbing onto a mechanical lift. This is a large device used to lift patients out of their beds.

The California Department of Public Health says the resident fell to the ground, dragging the equipment with him and striking his head on the lift's metal frame. He was transported to a hospital where he died on May 13. Cause of death was blunt-force trauma.

According to several employees at the California nursing home, the lift should have been in a shower room and not in the hallway. Yet a state health investigator that went to the long-term facility after the man's fall-related death found the lift in the same place where it had been when the patient got hurt. Department of Public Health director Dr. Mark Horton said that a state investigation determined that the failure to properly store the mechanical lift contributed to the resident's death. Not only was the lift improperly stored, but the wheels were not locked.

In addition to the $100,000 fine--the maximum penalty that California law allows, Aviara Healthcare Center received an "AA" citation. The state also fined the Southern California nursing home $16,000 because it failed to properly monitor a patient that was able to wander away from the long-term care facility a number of times over a 9-hour period.

Fall Accidents and the Elderly
Fall accidents can be especially dangerous for sick or elderly people. According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, one of the leading causes of death and nonfatal injuries requiring hospitalization among older adults is falls. In 2000, 46% of fatal falls involved older adults that sustained traumatic brain injuries.

California nursing home workers are supposed to make sure that patients don't get hurt in fall accidents. Prevention measures may include installing handrails in areas where elderly or physically weak patients may need to go unassisted, ensuring there are no wet substances or objects on the ground that a patient might slip on or trip over, carefully monitoring patients that have a tendency to wander off without supervision, and physically assisting patients that need help getting around.

Failure to implement the proper measures to prevent fall accidents can be grounds for a Orange County, California nursing home negligence lawsuit if a resident is injured or dies as a result.

Maximum Fine Issued in Rehab Center Patient's Death, Occupational Health & Safety, June 26, 2009

State fines nursing home $100,000 in patient's fall, SignonSanDiego.com, June 23, 2009

Falls Among Older Adults: An Overview, CDC


Related Web Resources:
Preventing slip and fall accidents in nursing homes and long-term care facilities, ZurichServices, March 2008

California Department of Public Health

Our Orange County, California nursing home law firm knows how important it is for you to receive the compensation that you are owed for your loved one's wrongful death. Contact Howard Law, LLP today. We are located in Anaheim and represent personal injury clients throughout Southern California.