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Nursing Home Negligence in Southern California: A Case Study


March 12, 2021

elderly person facetiming

Many of our loved ones, whether family or friends, live or will live in a nursing home at some point in their lives. Nursing homes are supposed to provide useful services such as housing, housekeeping, personal care, skilled nursing and other medical care. Additionally, nursing homes often include special programs for elderly individuals suffering with Alzheimer’s or various forms of dementia.

Luckily, many nursing homes around Southern California provide skilled staff who perform their duties without any neglect or other negligent acts. However, situations do arise when elderly nursing home patients are injured or even die due to the negligence of a nursing home and nursing home staff. Sadly, this occurs everywhere from Los Angeles to Orange County to Sacramento. If this happens, the injured patient, or their family, may bring various claims against the nursing home or nursing home staff such as negligence, wrongful death or elder abuse. In this blog post, we provide a case study involving nursing home neglect and negligence that went before the California Supreme Court.

In Delaney v. Baker (“Delaney”), a daughter (“Daughter”) placed her 88-year-old mother (“Mother”) into a nursing home after the Mother fractured her ankle. (Delaney v. Baker (1999) 20 Cal.4th 23) Four months after the Mother entered the nursing home, the Mother died. Upon the Mother’s death, the Daughter examined the Mother’s body and found pressure ulcers (“bed sores”) all over the Mother’s ankles and feet. The daughter investigated and learned that the nursing home had left the Mother lying in urine and feces for extended periods of time. The daughter also learned that the nursing home had failed to adequately train employees and failed to properly monitor the Mother.

The Daughter sued the nursing home and medical professionals (“Professional”) for a number of causes of action including negligence and neglect of an elder. The jury found for the Daughter and awarded damages, including heightened damages and attorney’s fees under California’s elder abuse statute (“Elder Abuse Statute”). On appeal, the California Supreme Court considered whether the trial court properly entered heightened damages under the Elder Abuse Statute. The nursing home’s attorneys argued that the trial court had erred because the professional negligence statute restricted heightened damages. The Supreme Court considered the purpose of the Elder Abuse Statute, which they analyzed as “protecting a particularly vulnerable portion of the population from gross mistreatment from abuse and custodial neglect.” (Id.) Indeed, in 1982 the California Legislature recognized that dependent adults may be subjected to neglect, or abandonment and [California] has the responsibility to” protect [elders].” (Id.) Ultimately, the Supreme Court upheld the Court of Appeals’ decision and permitted the heightened damages.

Delaney involved a complex analysis of statutory interpretation and legislative intent. However, the fact pattern has sadly been repeated time and time again. Nursing home patients and elders are regularly injured due to nursing home negligence and neglect.

As discussed, there is no area of Southern California that is immune from nursing home negligence, neglect and elder abuse. Negligence, wrongful death and elder abuse claims are regularly brought in Los Angeles, Orange County, San Diego and Ventura County. The attorneys at MKP Law Group, LLP have years of experience litigating cases against nursing homes and nursing home staff throughout California. If you or a loved one has been injured due to nursing home negligence, neglect or elder abuse, you may have a right to be compensated for the injures. Contact MKP Law Group, LLP for your 100% free consultation today.