Medical Center Sued After Deadly Fall Suffered By Patient
The allegations in this lawsuit are complex. A 65-year-old woman was removed from the liver transplant list after she suffered a violent fall following an X-ray. The incident left the woman needing “extensive care” and removed her from candidacy for a liver transplant.
Her husband has sued the medical center for not doing enough to prevent the fall that led to the injury which caused her to be removed from the liver transplant registry, which ultimately resulted in her death. Is this claim actionable?
Fall injuries in hospitals
Fall injuries do occur in hospitals and patients who are at risk of falling have that placed in their charts. For that reason, hospitals are also liable if a patient falls and there is something they could have done to prevent it. In these cases, foreknowledge is often an element of negligence. If the hospital staff is unaware that the patient is at risk for falling, then it will be harder to prove negligence than otherwise. In this case, the plaintiffs are alleging that the defendants either knew or should have known that the plaintiff was at risk of falling. They claim that after the X-ray, the woman grew dizzy and fell. She suffered a fracture to her large arm bone. If those claims prove true, then the hospital would likely be liable for the fall. But are they liable for her death?
Teasing out the claims
You have two separate claims being made here. One is related to a fractured humerus bone, the other is related to wrongful death. The biggest issue here is that there is no more plaintiff alive to file a claim related to a fractured arm. That means that the hospital must be liable for the death for the claim to proceed.
As an example, let’s say I’m a guy who tripped and fell at Walmart. I file a lawsuit, but a few weeks later, I get hit by a bus. My lawsuit against Walmart is dropped. It could be converted into a wrongful death lawsuit, or I’d have to file a separate wrongful death lawsuit against the bus company. However, Walmart would no longer be liable for my trip and fall because I’m dead.
Now, what if during my trip and fall, I injured my ankle, requiring me to be on crutches. This results in a second injury in which I fall down the stairs. The first negligence now directly relates to the second situation. While I could allege that the stairs were intrinsically dangerous, it is more likely that my cause of action against Walmart would be converted into a wrongful death.
Ultimately, a plaintiff who makes this sort of argument would only be entitled to recover damages at a percentage of the defendant’s blame. Since the defendant isn’t solely liable for the death, some of the liability falls on circumstance. The woman died because she needed a liver, not because she suffered a fall. That is what the defense will claim. Jurors have a hard time unpacking these arguments. Everyone does.
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