Mr. Walters* had been aging in his home, but was starting to show signs of confusion and weakness. His family, concerned, took him for a check-up at a nearby hospital. After a short stay, he was discharged in stable condition to a skilled nursing facility for short-term rehab. Due to his weakness, he was diagnosed as a fall risk, and the discharging physician recommended around-the-clock supervision while he was undergoing rehabilitation. The rehab was expected to take 1-2 weeks, after which Mr. Walters would then return home. His children lived nearby and would take turns checking in on him at least once a day.
Soon after his admission, however, the staff at the nursing facility diagnosed Mr. Walters with dementia and transferred him to the long-term care unit. His children soon realized that he was being over-medicated by the nursing staff to keep him from getting out of bed. The facility was short-staffed and didn’t have the appropriate personnel in the facility to care for him. It then went from bad to worse. The staff started using chemical restraints, which is a term for when medications are used to subdue or restrain a patient. Mr. Walters began falling repeatedly. His children expressed their concern on multiple occasions and were ignored by the staff. Their concerns didn’t stop there. Many times, Mr. Walters was left for hours in his own urine and feces, as staff failed to respond to calls for bathroom assistance, and failed to change his diaper and linens.
Within two months, Mr. Walters was taken by ambulance back to the hospital. This time he was unresponsive and severely hypernatremic, which means he had too much sodium in his blood. He was dehydrated, malnourished, and suffering from acute renal failure, a rib fracture, and four pressure sores on his heels and buttocks. He never regained consciousness and was taken to hospice where he passed away about a week later.
His family turned to Coker Law to find justice for their father. For a man who had initially just gone into the facility for two weeks of rehabilitation, his family was shocked at not only the lack of care for their father, but also how the nursing facility’s attorneys devalued his life. The defense in the case claimed that Mr. Walters was a sick, elderly man and argued that he was going to die soon anyway.
They insinuated that his life wasn’t valuable, even though the facility and staff committed to his children they could, and would, care for him appropriately. “We believe that when nursing facilities accept residents, they know their conditions,” said Coker Law shareholder and nursing home abuse expert Steve Watrel. “These facilities are entering into a contract, and are being paid to care for and protect their patients, regardless of their condition.”
Federal and state law mandates that nursing homes must staff to the needs of its residents. This nursing facility’s leadership did not comply with the law. Instead, they staffed the facility to state minimums without taking into consideration the needs of their residents. Due to their negligence, Mr. Walters failed to receive the care and treatment he needed, and his family lost their beloved father due to tragic neglect that had fatal results.
Watrel and the legal team at Coker Law fought for Mr. Walters’ family to find justice for their father. They showed the nursing facility that his life did indeed have value; and, though elderly, he could have lived out his golden years in good health had he been properly protected by the people who were entrusted with his care. “This family trusted that this facility would keep its promise to provide appropriate care for their loved one, but they did not. I will continue to fight for the rights of Florida’s seniors to get the care they need and deserve in any nursing facility,” insisted Watrel.
If you believe that your loved one has been mistreated, injured, or passed away due to COVID-19 or neglect or abuse, Coker Law is here to help you navigate through these uncertain, difficult times. You can download a free copy of The Caregiver’s Guide to walk you through how to choose a nursing home in Florida and what to do if you suspect abuse or neglect.
Click here to set up a free consultation with Nursing Home Abuse Expert Attorney Steve Watrel. Our attorneys and support staff are available at any time through phone calls, emails, and video chat at (904) 356-6071.
Case Title: Mr. Walters v. Nursing Facility* (The names have been changed to protect his and his family’s privacy.)
Attorneys/Staff involved in case: Shareholder Steve Watrel, Paralegal Pat Hill, Legal Assistant Sharon Adkins.
Date of Settlement: July 2021
Amount of Settlement: $900,000