Wrongful Death Due to Negligence / March 8, 2022
Lawsuit Against Forest Hill Heights
On March 8, 2022, WVFK&N attorney Christopher Norman filed a medical malpractice claim on behalf of two men – one who was seriously injured as a result of negligence, and one who tragically died as a result of negligence.
The complaint alleges that prior to the incidents involved in the lawsuit, other residents of Forest Hill Heights had lost control of their wheelchairs and were injured on a ramp which began at the lobby. The ramp was accessible to all residents regardless of their abilities or disabilities. Forest Hill Heights knew, or should have known, prior to the accidents at issue in the lawsuit, that the subject ramp posed a potential danger to residents, particularly those who were wheelchair bound, elderly, and otherwise physically and cognitively disabled. There is no evidence to suggest that Forest Hill Heights took any steps to rectify the dangerous condition presented by this ramp. Indeed, the dangerous ramp was left open and accessible to all residents, regardless of their disabilities.
The complaint alleges that in January of 2021, the first man to be injured was a 94-year-old wheelchair-bound resident. On January 5, 2021, 22 days before his wheelchair ramp accident, Forest Hill Heights completed a comprehensive nursing assessment, and noted that the man had several diagnoses which put him at high risk for falls and other accidents, including cerebral infarction, syncope with collapse, dementia with behavioral disturbances, and weakness and atrophy. That same day, a physical assessment was completed, which noted that the man was at risk for falls and injury because of impaired balance, confusion, and the need for assistive devices. Despite these findings, the man was allowed to continue roaming unassisted throughout the facility in his wheelchair, with unattended and unfettered access to the ramp in the reception area. On January 6, 2021, 21 days before his wheelchair accident, the man fell at the facility. Forest Hill Heights’ providers noted that the man hit his head during the fall and documented the need to monitor for potential neurological changes. Despite this incident, the man was allowed to continue roaming unassisted throughout the facility in his wheelchair, with unattended and unfettered access to the ramp in the reception area. On January 8, 2021, 19 days before his wheelchair accident, the man again fell at the facility. He was found by a nurse during rounds sitting on the floor next to his bathroom door. Despite this incident, the man was allowed to continue roaming unassisted throughout the facility in his wheelchair, with unattended and unfettered access to the ramp in the reception area. On January 24, 2021, 3 days before his wheelchair accident, the man fell yet again at the facility. On this date, a patient care assistant found the man sitting on the floor next to his bed, unable to explain how he fell. Despite this incident, the man was allowed to continue roaming unassisted throughout FHH in his wheelchair, with unattended and unfettered access to the ramp in the reception area. At approximately 4:00 p.m. on January 27, 2021, the man was seen rolling down the ramp in the lobby, picking up speed uncontrollably until he ran into the wall. He hit his head on the railing and his wheelchair rolled over, landing on his right side. Employees called 911 and EMS responded as a priority 1 for a “traumatic injury” to the head with lights and sirens. The EMS providers noted that the man had a large hematoma over his right eye with a laceration above it, and that his eye was completely swollen shut. They also noted that his hip appeared deformed, and that the man was unable to straighten his leg, and that he had lacerations to his biceps and elbows bilaterally. His oxygen saturations were found to be low, and he was transported to Johns Hopkins Bayview Medical Center. During transport, the pain was so severe that he was given Fentanyl. At Bayview, the history of a fall following an uncontrolled roll down a 50-foot ramp was repeated, and the providers there noted an “obvious head strike.” The man’s condition never improved, and he passed away just three days later, on January 30, 2021.
The complaint alleges that despite both this man’s accident on this ramp, and incidents suffered by prior residents, there is no evidence to suggest that Forest Hill Heights, its owners, administrators, or anyone else acting on its behalf, took any steps to rectify the dangerous condition presented by this ramp. In June of 2021, a second man, also a resident at Forest Hill heights, was an 89-year-old wheelchair bound man with a history significant for a right below the knee amputation and dementia, among other things. On June 26, 2021, approximately 45 days prior to his wheelchair accident, a service plan was completed at which time, Forest Hill Heights’ providers noted a history of falls with injury, and that the man required physical assistance and occasionally total care regarding his mobility. Despite the second resident’s condition, and despite the history of multiple accidents occurring on this ramp previously (including the accident suffered by the first man seven months previously, which resulted in his death), this second man was allowed to continue roaming unassisted throughout the facility in his wheelchair, with unattended and unfettered access to the ramp in the reception area. On the afternoon of August 10, 2021, less than seven months after the first man’s accident and death, this second resident crashed his wheelchair on the same ramp. As a result of this accident, this second man sustained multiple rib fractures, a left forehead wound, a right forehead wound, a left knee wound, a right shoulder wound, a left leg wound, a left arm wound, a left-hand wound, and a right elbow wound. He was transferred to Upper Chesapeake Medical Center the following day after he was found by the facility staff to have increased back pain, fever, cough, and to be bleeding through his bandages. When he arrived at Upper Chesapeake, in addition to the above-mentioned injuries, this second man was found to have developed community-acquired pneumonia (a result of shallow breathing because of his multiple fractured ribs from his fall).
The lawsuit alleges that the death of the first man and the injuries of the second man were a result of the negligence of Forest Hill Heights and its employees in failing to properly address the history of accidents from the unsafe ramp in its facility.
The action is pending in the Circuit Court for Harford County, Maryland.