The wife of a 72-year-old nursing home resident who died as a result of becoming engulfed in flames while smoking a cigarette after his food shield made of paper and plastic caught fire at the defendant nursing home on February 17, 2015 has filed a federal nursing home negligence lawsuit that alleges that her husband should not have been allowed to smoke unsupervised. The husband was baldy burned and died in the hospital on March 11, 2015 as a result of the nursing home smoking/fire incident.
The wife’s federal nursing home negligence lawsuit was filed in mid-November 2016 and alleges that the defendant nursing home, which was operated by the county, violated the Federal Nursing Home Reform Act (“FNHRA”) by failing to protect its residents from avoidable accidents. The lawsuit further alleges that the defendant nursing home’s violations with regard to the man were not singular or isolated but rather were so routine and regular that they were a broad and consistent policy of non-compliance. The Pennsylvania Department of Health reportedly investigated the nursing home death caused by the fire while the resident was smoking and determined that the defendant nursing home failed to provide a safe environment for residents who smoked.
The Alleged Facts
The man, who suffered from Parkinson’s disease and was bi-polar, was determined by the defendant nursing home to require assistance when eating and while performing activities of daily living. The defendant nursing home determined the man to be a smoker who required supervision while smoking after being found by nursing home staff to have burns on his fingers. Without explanation, the nursing home later declared the man to be able to smoke independently, which was his status at the time of the fire.
On the day of the fire, the man allegedly left the dining room of his nursing home building in his wheelchair, with his food shield still in place, and was observed smoking a cigarette on a balcony five minutes later. A nursing home staff member was in a room adjacent to the balcony when she saw out of the corner of her eye that the man was on fire. She called for help from another nursing home employee and they were able to extinguish the flames. The nursing home employees observed melted plastic on the man’s neck and smelled burnt plastic.
The man was transported to the local hospital where he was found to have burns on his hands, wrists, neck, face, and scalp. The man told the emergency room personnel that his pain level was 10 out of 10.
The nursing home later found a lighter and a cigarette in the man’s room but allege it was unaware where the man had obtained them.
The nursing home allegedly allowed smoking on balconies instead of a common area on the first floor of the facility because of a recent outbreak of Norovirus. An investigation found that the defendant nursing home did not have a written policy in place for its staff regarding the change in its smoking policy, and that the defendant nursing home failed to provide the man with a safe environment by making sure that he did not have possession of smoking materials.
The Pennsylvania federal nursing home negligence lawsuit seeks compensatory damages, consequential damages, attorney’s fees, and costs.
If you or a loved one suffered injuries (or worse) while a resident of a nursing home in Pennsylvania or in another U.S. state due to nursing home neglect, nursing home negligence, nursing home abuse, or due to nursing home under-staffing, you should promptly find a local nursing home claim lawyer in Pennsylvania or in your U.S. state who may investigate your possible nursing home claim for you and file a nursing home claim on your behalf, if appropriate.
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