Nursing Homes Can Be Held Liable for Their Employees’ Actions

June 24th, 2016 by Attorney Roger Weinberg

Nursing home residents and their families trust those owning and managing nursing homes to hire, supervise and retain trustworthy, competent people who will not neglect or abuse residents. Maryland nursing homes are not always up to the task. Some of them act negligently when they fail to supervise employees and prevent harm to residents.

Federal and Maryland law require criminal background checks by nursing homes, assisted living facilities and those working with the disabled.

In the case of Evans v. Morsell, 284 Md. 160, 166, 395 A.2d 480 (1978), the Maryland Court of Appeals first recognized an employer can owe a duty to the general public due to the hiring, supervision and retention of its employees. The Court quoted from an opinion of the Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia, which said:

“One dealing with the public is bound to use reasonable care to select employees competent and fit for the work assigned to them and to refrain from retaining the services of an unfit employee. When an employer neglects this duty and as a result injury is occasioned to a third person, the employer may be liable even though the injury was brought about by the willful act of the employee beyond the scope of his employment.”

The Court stated, “Where an employee is expected to come into contact with the public … the employer must make some reasonable inquiry before hiring or retaining the employee to ascertain his fitness, or the employer must otherwise have some basis for believing that he can rely on the employee.”

These cases are similar to other lawsuits claiming negligence, in that a plaintiff must prove the following:

  • The defendant owed a legal duty to the plaintiff (employees would be sufficiently supervised to prevent harm to nursing home residents),
  • There was a breach of the duty (there was no supervision or it was insufficient),
  • Causation (due to that breach the plaintiff was harmed), and
  • Damages (the plaintiff suffered physical pain, emotional distress, injuries, medical bills).

In a Georgia case involving a personal care home, a Wilkinson County judge awarded $64.6 million to a man who was beaten by several employees. The plaintiff was is Betty Gill, the mother of Joseph Cason, Jr., the resident of the facility. The final judgment was issued against the owners of the Total Care Personal Care Home in Gordon, Georgia, and ten employees, according to The Daily Report.

The case involved Cason, a mentally disabled resident who was “repeatedly and sadistically beaten and otherwise abused by employees” in November 2013. Defendants’ actions were recorded on surveillance cameras. The complaint alleges:

  • The care facility utterly failed to supervise its employees, leading to abuse and neglect of the residents.
  • The facility’s employees physically beat Cason on multiple occasions, failed to properly care for him and made him to vote for the owner’s sister in a local election even though Cason lacked the mental capability to do so.
  • The defendants knew about the abuse but failed to stop it.

Nursing homes need to be vigilant to make sure appropriate supervision, training and policies are in place to prevent this type of situation. They also need to investigate and respond to any complaints or concerns raised about possible neglect or abuse, especially when residents lack the ability to make their own complaints about mistreatment.

If you or a loved one has suffered neglect or abuse at a Maryland nursing home, we can help you address the situation and hold those responsible accountable for their actions. At the Law Offices of Roger S. Weinberg, you’ll find compassionate support and experienced advocates to help your family through the tough times. Call 410-825-3161 today to schedule a free consultation.

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