Jack Cook · Lloyd Bell · Dan Ambrose
July 20, 2023 5:30 PM||TLU n DemandRegister Now
Leonard Doyle v. DBI Health
Nursing Home Fall Case
Injury: Fracture Hip requiring Surgery
Trial: October 2022
Case Blurb: How we got a collectable $3.1 million verdict on a nursing home fall case, in one of the most conservative venues in Florida, where our client was so infirm at the age of 93, he could not even attend a single minute of trial.
Facts: Leonard Doyle was a Navy Veteran of the Korean War and a former law enforcement officer. In his 80’s, he worked as a security guard for Mass General’s ER before retiring and moving to Florida with his wife at the age of 87. Going into 2020, Mr. Doyle was very active in his retirement, recently returning from Alaska where he hiked the frozen tundra with gusto. In February 2020, he developed benign prostatic hyperplasia (BPH) a non-cancerous enlargement of the prostate which causes problems with urination. As this happened during the COVID heat up, he could not undergo elective surgery and instead had to have an indwelling foley catheter. This resulted in recurrent urinary traction infections (UTIs) which can cause the elderly to be disoriented and fall. Following a few non-injurious falls, Mr. Doyle was admitted into the hospital for treatment of a UTI. Following discharge, Mr. Doyle was recommended to undergo a short-term rehab stay at The Villages Rehabilitation and Nursing Center, a very lucrative privately owned skilled nursing facility in Lake County, Florida. From admission, Mr. Doyle was identified as a high fall risk due to his history of recent falls, onset of mild dementia, generalized weakness, and recurrent UTIs.As is the case in many nursing homes, while the records indicated that he was receiving good case, the reality skewed contrariwise. Despite clear orders to physically assist Mr. Doyle to the bathroom at scheduled time, he was often left to soil himself in the bed. Three weeks into his stay, Mr. Doyle was diagnosed with yet another UTI and was noted to be disoriented and confused. The following event, at around 10:45 p.m., Mr. Doyle was found on the floor of his room in excruciating pain.In an attempt to get to the bathroom, Mr. Doyle lost his balance and landed on the hard floor. This resulted in a significant hip fracture and resulting surgery which rendered Mr. Doyle wheelchair-bound for the remainder of his life.
What we alleged they did wrong: Very simple equation. Mr. Doyle was at elevated risk of falling when he was admitted into the facility. His risk of falling actually increased while he was there due to the onset of another UTI which saw him become increasingly confused, weak and disoriented. His rights as a resident entitled him to any and all available fall precautions including floor mats, bed alarms, close monitoring, a sitter, scheduled toileting, and positioning of his assistive devices (walker, wheelchair, etc.). None of these were implemented despite his high and increasing risk of falls. On the night of incident, the records indicate that the nurse failed to bring him to the toilet prior to his usual bedtime, which explains why he was attempting to get out of bed at 10:45 p.m. to use the bathroom. The facility had a history of frequent resident falls and failed to take corrective action to prevent falls and ensure the safety of residents. The fall and subsequent hip fracture have hobbled Mr. Doyle for life, and have put him permanently in a wheelchair. The BPH was eventually fixed via surgery, and Mr. Doyle had no UTIs following its correction. But for this fall, he would be living out his Golden Years on his feet.
Why the other side said we were full of crap: This is Mr. Doyle’s fault because he got out of bed without asking for assistance. Mr. Doyle did not require any special fall precautions other than having his bed rails up. Mr. Doyle did not have a UTI prior to his fall, it was a fungal colonization instead. The frequent resident falls are within the realm of normal for a facility of this type. Mr. Doyle’s hip fully recovered, he quickly returned to baseline, his current condition and wheelchair dependence are related solely to his age and other non-fall related illnesses. Mr. Doyle and his wife are liars, because he was actually found right next to the bed, which means he slipped out of bed and we couldn’t have prevented it.
Issues we hit hard in Voir Dire: Knowing we were in a conservative area, we indoctrinated the panel to Mr. Doyle’s military and law enforcement service. We needed to know who would use Mr. Doyle’s age against him with regards to both liability and damages. We anticipated that Mr. Doyle would not be able to attend trial, and therefore had to address how the jury would feel about not hearing from him (as he was never deposed) and not ever seeing him. This area of the state is very healthcare intensive and is a conservative stronghold. The citizens value their healthcare and are constantly concerned about its cost. We had to ensure that the jury would not see this case as one which would increase their cost of healthcare. Finally, we needed to find jurors who would support 7 figures worth of damages for an infirm plaintiff well beyond his life expectancy.
Why we won:
How did we get them to give us $3.1 million, which also resulted in a fee award all of which is collectable? Attend the webinar and find out.