A 12-member jury in a trial in Sangamon County awarded the family of a deceased 78-year-old man $6.75 million in a wrongful death action. The defendant was Lewis Memorial Christian Village, where Robert Folder was living. The facility was found to be liable for Folder's death after he incurred a broken neck when his wheelchair fell off a lift that is used for the nursing home's van. The plaintiffs included Mary Folder and their two sons. A spokesman for the facility expressed condolences for the incident; however, “disagrees” with the court's findings.
Folder, who was a resident at the home for nearly six months, was taken by ambulance to Memorial Medical Center and pronounced dead shortly after. Mr. Folder was a former welder and union glazier for the Capitol Glass Company. The Illinois Department of Public Health (IDPH) imposed a $50,000 fine on the 171-bed nursing facility. After negotiations, this fine was reduced to $32,500. The IDPH investigated the incident and determined that Folder's wheelchair was on the lift positioned roughly six inches above the ground when the fall occurred.
According to reports, the driver of the van heard Folder strike the pavement. The cause of death was stated to be the result of a “cervical spine” fracture. The lawsuit named the parent organization known as Christian Horizons as the defendant. It accused the facility of a failure to properly train their staff on using the van's wheelchair lift in a safe manner.
Delay in Calling Emergency Responders
The claim also asserted that the facility's staff failed to properly position Folder's neck in a stable manner and of failing to contact emergency responders in a timely manner. It further states that “appropriate safety measures” were not taken. The IDPH report explained that the staff moved Folder back within the facility to assess his condition. This delay was suggested to have prevented any chance for life-saving actions.
The claim said that Mrs. Folder endured “severe emotional stress” after witnessing her husband's pain and struggle. Facility officials faced allegations of misleading the authorities who were investigating the accident. The facility's administrator and a nurse were alleged to have given a “false story” describing the circumstances regarding the incident.
The facility has since been ordered to revamp its written procedures regarding resident care. This was imposed after it was determined that the facility did not have adequate safety guidelines in place and lacked proper methods of monitoring and supervising residents. In addition, they were ordered to establish proper training procedures regarding how such head and spinal cord injuries are handled.
Wrongful Death in Maryland
Some of the key provisions involving actions of wrongful death in Maryland are as follows:
- A person or organization who is determined to have caused a fatality may be held liable for damages
- When the defendant(s) are alleged to have demonstrated negligence, the surviving family members may bring a civil action
- Typically, these claims are brought by a surviving spouse, children or parents of the deceased individual
- Maryland has a three-year statute of limitations for claims of wrongful death
- Under certain rare circumstances, the three-year limitation may be extended