Ninety-two year old Catherine McCann suffers from severe Alzheimer’s. Because she is unable to speak or care for herself, her family spends $10,000 per month for skilled nursing care. The provider of that care, Lutheran Home for the Aged in Arlington Heights, Illinois, was supposed to be providing round-the-clock care, including putting medicated drops in her ear for a recently developed wax buildup.
Instead, after McCann began pulling at her ear, one of her caretakers noticed something truly disturbing: maggots crawling in her ear, reports CBS Chicago. Her family met her at the hospital and watched as doctors pulled fifty-seven maggots out of her ear canal. An expert analyzed the maggots and determined that they had been present for two to three days.
The family, as expected, is beyond disturbed, disgusted, or angry. They feel that the nursing home not only should have noticed the problem sooner, but the fact that so many maggots were in her ear makes them question whether she had been receiving her prescribed ear drops four times per day.
The nursing home argues that this was merely a freak occurrence. They claim that they administered the final dose of the ear drops the night before and that the maggots were likely too small for the nursing staff to see. They also told CBS that an exterminator had checked the facility for flies and found none and speculated that the fly might have entered McCann's ear during a walk with her private caretaker.
The negligence claim will likely depend on the growth rate of fly larvae. Truly, the question for the jury will be, would a reasonable care provider, administering the prescribed care, have discovered the maggots during the two to three days that they were present?
As for the other claim, the family will have to prove that the conduct was extreme or outrageous and that it recklessly caused emotional distress. The conduct must exceed all bounds of decency. It is no longer required that there be physical side effects from the distress. Prior to 2009, a plaintiff would have to show a symptom, like stress-related ulcers, to prevail on an emotional distress claim. In a landmark case, the Illinois Supreme Court lowered the bar and held that the jury can rely on evidence and their own experience instead.
That doesn't mean it's an easy claim to win. That landmark case involved a deceased baby stuck in the birth canal for over an hour. However, if maggots in the ear is held to meet that standard, the family could be awarded a judgment for Catherine McCann's emotional distress and for their own emotional distress as well. McCann's husband and daughter witnessed their mother's agony as the fifty-seven maggots were removed.
- Consult a New York Personal Injury Attorney (FindLaw)
- Catherine McCann, Nursing Home Resident With Alzheimer's, Has 57 Maggots Removed From Ear (Huffington Post
- New China Wok Tossed Woman Through Glass Door Over Sauce Packets (Chicago Personal Injury Law Blog)
- Legal Rights of Nursing Home Residents (FindLaw's Learn About the Law)