Who Is Liable When another Resident Causes Your Loved One to Die in a Nursing Home?
When nursing home residents are injured or killed by other residents, the liability falls on the nursing home. State and federal laws require nursing homes to ensure the safety of all residents under their care.
Understanding Resident-On-Resident Abuse
Most people relate actions of nursing home abuse to physical or emotional mistreatment by a nursing home staff member. Resident-on-resident abuse is also a common occurrence in many nursing homes and long-term care facilities across the country. In studies conducted by the National Center on Elder Abuse (NCEA), reports show that a high percentage of nursing home abuse cases involve resident-on-resident abuse.
Resident-on-resident abuse is defined as negative, often aggressive, interactions between residents in nursing homes and long-term care facilities. It occurs when one resident exhibits aggressive, harassing, or violent behaviors towards another resident. When this occurs, nursing home lawyers witness serious physical injuries, emotional trauma, and a variety of deteriorating health conditions including depression, anxiety, insomnia, and loss of appetite. In some cases, residents die from their injuries, sudden cardiac arrest, or stroke caused by elevated stress levels.
A 2014 study by Cornell University, Weill Cornell Medical College reported that 1 in 5 nursing home residents in 10 different New York state facilities was involved in at least one aggressive encounter with fellow residents. Incidents included physical attacks, verbal abuse, sexual abuse, and unwelcome entry into another resident’s room. Common occurrences included:
- Hitting and slapping
- Pushing and shoving
- Harassment, yelling, and name-calling
- Throwing objects
- Destroying personal property
- Sexual exposure and advances
In 2019, a 90-year-old female resident in a New Hampshire nursing home died after her male roommate turned off her oxygen. The woman was hooked up to a high-flow oxygen machine for rehabilitative care, but was otherwise stable and of sound mind. Her roommate suffering from severe dementia turned off the oxygen machine because it made too much noise. The New Hampshire Chief Medical Examiner ruled the death as a homicide, but the male resident was determined to be too incompetent to participate in a court trial. In July 2021, a lawsuit filed by a nursing home lawyer was settled for an undisclosed amount.
Resident-on-resident abuse is found in many nursing homes, but certain factors increase its likelihood: 1) a high ratio of residents with cognitive disorders, 2) a high ratio of residents with dementia or Alzheimer’s, 3) when psychiatric patients co-mingle with elderly residents, and 4) understaffed facilities.