Another Reason to Avoid Nursing Homes

Is there liability on the part of a nursing home when one resident harms another
11/16/2013 01:28 pm ET Updated Jan 23, 2014

What has mediocre food, drab dᅢᄅcor, cranky roommates and smells bad? For those of us who will end up in a nursing home, the answer is home. As if we needed another reason to avoid going to a nursing home, this week's deadly nursing home roommate feud gave us just that.

In the overnight hours of October 30, two residents of the Ocean Promenade Nursing and Rehabilitation Center in the Rockaways had a dispute over a plastic curtain separating their beds. That's when Thomas Yarnavick allegedly ripped the footrest off of his wheelchair and used it to bludgeon roommate, Kailall Singh to death. If convicted, Mr. Yarnavick will likely spend his remaining days in the only place that may be worse than a nursing home-jail.

Is there liability on the part of a nursing home when one resident harms another? In this case, the nursing home was not the immediate (proximate in legal-speak) cause of Mr Singh's death. What then, is the extent of a nursing home's duty toward its residents? I asked an expert on the matter to share her thoughts.

Deborah Truhowsky, Esq. specializes in nursing home 'abuse and neglect' cases. She believes that there are several problem areas within nursing homes that create an unsafe environment for residents. The first, she said, is inadequate staffing. The second is that the existing staff is not getting proper direction or supervision. Deborah observed that "If a direct care giver is abusing a resident or a resident is abusing another resident, this problem must be brought to the attention of a nursing supervisor or doctor so that recommendations for appropriate interventions can be made." In addition, she continued, "when family members complain about a situation, the facilities need to do a better job of investigating the complaint and not take the word of the staff who might be responsible for the abuse".

If you know of any nursing home resident that may be in an unsafe situation, it is important to express your concerns with the administrator. If they don't adequately address the situation, you may wish to pursue legal options

Ann Margaret Carrozza is a practicing attorney who also served as a New York State Assemblywoman. She is a regular legal contributor to TV and print media outlets.