Settlement of $142,500 for wife that suffered psychological injuries following death of her husband due to inadequate nursing home care

PUBLISHED 15 Jul 2014

Motor Neurone Disease is the name given to a group of diseases in which the cells controlling muscles fail to work correctly. With no nerve cells to activate the muscles, they gradually weaken and deteriorate. This causes difficulty in swallowing, amongst many other things. As a consequence, patients that suffer motor neurone diseases often require close supervision whilst eating as the risk of chocking or inhaling food or fluids becomes quite high.

Our client’s husband suffered a Motor Neurone / Parkinson’s disease as a result of exposure to dangerous chemicals during his years of working as a welder. This disease left him requiring the need for constant care and supervision. Consequently, his wife, and our client, enlisted the expert care of a nursing home to care for her husband. Upon admission, and throughout his stay, it was noted that he required one-to-one supervision whilst eating. 

Unfortunately, this did not occur. On the day of our client’s husbands tragic death he was given his evening meal by the nursing home staff. They had left him unsupervised to eat this meal. Soon after, he was observed in the kitchen by staff coughing and spitting out food. Staff came to his assistance and began hitting his back and attempting to remove the food that was clogging his airways with the assistance of suction. Despite this he began to turn blue as he was suffocating. Paramedics were soon called, however despite their valiant efforts, our client’s husband passed away. During the resuscitation process our client was called by the nursing home and advised that her husband was choking and semi-conscious. She was immediately and understandably shocked and devastated.

For weeks following the death of her husband our client remained in shock. Her psychological situation continued to worsen, she suffered from nervous shock, depression, anxiety, requires counselling and medication, loss of motivation and happiness in life. As her condition deteriorated she suffered a panic attack and at this point she consulted a psychologist with a view to treating her condition.

It was at this point she contacted Gerard Malouf and Partners where Leslie Abboud, a senior solicitor with over 30 years of legal experience, took carriage of this matter. Mr Abboud, and his specialised medical negligence team, obtained medical reports, expert reports and opinions. Mr Abboud thoroughly reviewed the complex medical evidence and reports and furthermore briefed an experienced barrister in this matter. In doing so he was able to establish a presence of negligence by the nursing home in finding that not only was the possibility of choking and suffocation high, but the nursing home was specifically alerted to this fact. It was established because he was not, the nursing home fell significantly below an acceptable standard of nursing care. Furthermore, Mr Abboud ensured our client was assessed by a qualified psychologist who was able to show that our client had suffered from adjustment disorder with mixed anxiety and depressed mood and also a panic disorder as a result of the negligence of the nursing home.

Mr Abboud entered into negotiations between the parties, including the specialist barrister briefed in this matter and instructed by Mr Abboud. The matter settled for $142,500.00 at an informal settlement conference. This was an outstanding result that our client was very pleased with. We hope that this settlement both helps encourage nursing homes to ensure their patients are properly cared for, and allows for our client to achieve some solace through proper medical care. 

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