Sonia Eli died of an overdose of prescription medications while being cared for by the Rainbow Beach Nursing Center. According to the Chicago Tribune, two doctors each saw Eli and filled out their own prescriptions for treatment. The combination was lethal.
While some might call that an unfortunate accident, others would label it malpractice and negligence. The family chose the latter when it sued the nursing home earlier this week. While accidents do happen in medicine, and not all will result in liability, recovery for medical malpractice requires proof that the care provided fell below the standard of the what the ordinary treating physician would have done.
Would the ordinary doctor confer with the other treating physicians before prescribing medication? Did one of the doctors or other staff members leave medicines off of the chart? Is it someone else's fault for not noticing the duplicate orders? These are all questions yet to be answered and yet it does beg one further question: is there any way this is not malpractice?
Even if it is, don't be surprised to see a small settlement or verdict. In most cases, damages are determined by the decedent's lifetime earning expectancy. For a decedent in a nursing home, that expectancy is very, very small. There is, of course, the possibility of other damages, such as emotional distress and punitive damages, but even punitive damages are often limited by law or by the judge to thousands, rather than millions.
On the other hand, judicial discretion aside, thanks to the Illinois Supreme Court, there is no strict cap to medical malpractice damages.
This isn't Rainbow Beach's first time dealing with negative press or harm to its patients. Just last year, they won a court battle to kick out inspectors from the Department of Health who were installed after a series of violent patient-on-patient attacks, including one incident where two male residents pinned down a 45-year-old patient and sexually assaulted her. According to the Tribune, the state unsuccessfully attempted to close the facility in April 2010.
It remains open.
- Consult a New York Personal Injury Attorney (FindLaw)
- Rainbow Beach Care Center's record of alleged violence (Chicago Tribune)
- A Quick Glance at Illinois Medical Malpractice Laws (FindLaw's Chicago Personal Injury Law Blog)
- Nursing Home Resident's Family Sues After Maggots Found in Her Ear (FindLaw's Chicago Personal Injury Law Blog)