In its decision filed on December 23, 2014, the Court of Appeals of Ohio Tenth Appellate District (“Appellate Court”) held that the plaintiff’s claim for injury due to a nursing home fall was a negligence claim and not a medical malpractice (medical negligence) claim. The Appellate Court held that the nursing home resident’s “injury arose because he had to use the bathroom not because he was in the process of receiving medical diagnosis, care or treatment. We fail to see how staff assistance to and from the bathroom involved “the prevention or alleviation of a physical or mental defect or illness.””
The Alleged Underlying Facts
A 76-year-old man had back surgery after which he was sent to the defendant nursing home for rehabilitation. While he was a resident of the nursing home, the man fell while he was being transferred by one of the nursing home staff, in violation of the requirement that two people attend to him during transfers due to his known risk for falling, allegedly because the nursing home was short-staffed on that date. As a result of his fall, the man struck his head on a door jamb, causing a subarachnoid hemorrhage. The man died two months later. The death certificate stated that the cause of death was the resident’s failure to thrive due to subarachnoid hemorrhage.
A survivorship action was filed against the nursing home, alleging that it was negligent by failing to provide adequate staffing. The defendant nursing home moved to dismiss the nursing home lawsuit, arguing that it involved a “medical claim,” and the plaintiff had failed to provide an affidavit of merit as required by Civ.R. 10(D)(2). The trial court agreed with the defendant nursing home and dismissed the nursing home negligence case.
The plaintiff refilled her lawsuit, alleging both common law negligence and medical negligence, and included an affidavit of merit. The defendant nursing home again filed a motion to dismiss, arguing that the plaintiff’s affidavit of merit filed with the second lawsuit did not comply with or satisfy Civ.R. 10(D)(2). The trial court dismissed the second nursing home lawsuit as well. The plaintiff appealed.
The Appellate Court noted that “medical claim” is defined by R.C. 2305.113(E)(3)(b), which states, in part: “Medical claim” means any claim that is asserted in any civil action … that arises out of the medical diagnosis, care, or treatment of any person. “Medical claim” includes the following: … (b) Claims that arise out of the medical diagnosis, care, or treatment of any person and to which either of the following applies: (i) The claim results from acts or omissions in providing medical care …,” which includes a lawsuit against a nursing home that arises out of the medical diagnosis, care, or treatment of any person.
The Appellate Court agreed with the plaintiff that moving a nursing home resident from a toilet to a bed does not involve “medical care,” and therefore the plaintiff’s lawsuit does not involve medical care and is not a medical claim (“to determine whether the use of medical equipment constitutes “care” under R.C. 2305.113(E)(3), the court must first determine if the equipment was used for the prevention or alleviation of a physical or mental defect or illness … This determination rests upon whether the equipment was an inherently necessary part of a medical procedure or if the use of the equipment arose out of a physician-ordered treatment … In the instant case, no medical equipment was used to effect [the resident’s] transfer to and from the bathroom … Thus, the only issue central to our analysis is whether the staff … were providing medical care within the meaning of the statute when assisting [the resident] to and from the bathroom”).
The Appellate Court held: “Since not all care that transpires in a hospital or nursing home involves “medical care” within the meaning of R.C. 2305.113(E)(3)(b), we find that it is possible to assert a claim for ordinary negligence against a nursing home or facility and that … [the resident’s] estate has done so.”
Source Carte v. The Manor at Whitehall, 2014-Ohio-5670.
If you or a loved one were injured (or worse) as a result of a nursing home fall, nursing home negligence, nursing home abuse, or nursing home neglect in Ohio or in another U.S. state, you should promptly seek the legal advice of a local Ohio nursing home claim attorney or a nursing home claim attorney in your state who may investigate your nursing home claim for you and represent you in a case against a nursing home, if appropriate.
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