On September 9, 2013, after approximately two weeks of trial, an Ohio jury awarded $375,000 to the family of a 70-year-old nursing home resident who suffocated and died when the electricity to the nursing home went out during a storm, causing his breathing machine to stop functioning. The resident had been using a BiPAP machine (as well as an oxygen concentrator) to help with his breathing. According to the plaintiffs’ experts, the man died a horrific death due to suffocation.
During the morning on April 28, 2011, the nursing home lost electrical power during a storm. The resident’s BiPAP and oxygen concentrator did not have battery backups and the electrical outlet for both was not connected to the nursing home’s backup generator. The BiPAP and oxygen concentrator stopped working. The resident stopped breathing and was taken to the hospital, where he died several days later.
Significantly, eight weeks earlier (on March 3, 2011), the nursing home experienced a power outage during which the same resident stopped breathing when his BiPAP and oxygen concentrator stopped working but he recovered after being transported to the hospital.
The defense alleged that the man died as a result of a “sudden cardiac event” when the power outage caused a fire alarm to sound (the man had been sleeping when the electricity went out). The defense noted that the man had a history of multiple medical problems, including respiratory and heart issues.
After the jury’s award of compensatory damages was announced, both sides met privately with the trial judge and settled the claim for punitive damages, which was made confidential.
What Is BiPAP?
Many people with obstructive sleep apnea (the temporary interruption of breathing during sleep that is caused when the muscles in the neck relax that leads to the airway becoming blocked) use a CPAP (continuous positive airway pressure) machine while sleeping to maintain an open airway. Some people use a BiPAP (bi-level positive airway pressure) machine for the same purpose. Both CPAP and BiPAP are noninvasive (do not involve surgery); they are not the same as a ventilator, but they do involve wearing a mask and a mouthpiece during sleep in order to receive positive airway pressure that keeps the airway open.
Approximately 20% of people fail to adjust to CPAP or BiPAP, often due to feeling claustrophobic while using the device.
While we were not privy to the Ohio jury’s deliberations, we surmise that an important factor in its finding in favor of the family of the deceased nursing home resident was the earlier episode two months prior, when the power went out during inclement weather and the man’s BiPAP and oxygen concentrator stopped functioning, leading to a similar situation from which the man fortunately recovered. The jury probably was incensed that the nursing home did not learn from the prior episode and take appropriate steps to avoid a similar, foreseeable episode like the one that cost the man his life.
If you or a loved one were a resident of an Ohio nursing home or a nursing home in another U.S. state and suffered significant injuries or other harms as a result of nursing home negligence, nursing home neglect, or nursing home abuse, you should promptly consult with an Ohio nursing home claim lawyer (or a nursing home claim lawyer in your state) who may investigate your nursing home claim for you and represent you in a nursing home negligence lawsuit, if appropriate.
Click here to visit our website or telephone us on our toll-free line (800-295-3959) to be connected with nursing home lawyers in your state who may assist you with your nursing home claim.
Turn to us when you don’t know where to turn.