Steps in overcoming potential juror bias in nursing home abuse or neglect cases
It is all but impossible for jurors to hear evidence presented in nursing home abuse or neglect cases without having some preconceived notions, considering that they are humans who have gone through various experiences in their own lives. Some of these preconceived notions may be beneficial to a plaintiff’s case; while others may be detrimental. Overcoming potential juror bias in nursing home abuse or neglect cases may be challenging in some situations, but it is certainly not impossible.
Studies have suggested that most people believe that a large number of nursing facilities across Missouri, Illinois and the U.S. provide substandard care. They also tend to believe that corporate nursing homes emphasize profits over resident safety and that the majority of nursing homes are understaffed.
In fact, these can be critical factors to pinpoint in a nursing home abuse or neglect case:
• A nursing facility had a pattern of placing profits ahead of people;
• Not only was the facility understaffed to provide safe services, but the corporate defendant knew this;
• Nursing staff members were not provided adequate training;
• A clear pattern of systemic wrongdoing existed;
• The resident’s injuries were directly caused by the defendant’s decisions to improperly train nursing staff and to keep the facility understaffed.
This can make it easier to keep a jury’s attention focused where it should be: on the fact that institutional negligence resulted in a patient’s being injured or even killed. In instances where corporate conduct caused the injury, but the defendant refuses to accept responsibility for any of its actions or inaction, a jury can become understandably angry and desire to hold the negligent facility responsible.
Examples of potential actions or inaction which can be used to overcome potential juror bias in nursing home abuse or neglect cases include:
• Nonexistent or fraudulent charting of resident care;
• Facility-wide patterns of violating not just the nursing home’s established policies and procedures, but also state and federal regulations; and
• Testimony from former employees that paint a picture of systemic deficiencies that the facility was warned about but failed to remedy.
Nursing home abuse or neglect cases often revolve around the pain and suffering or loss of dignity that a resident endured, in addition to any specific physical injuries that may have occurred. Corporate defendants will often try to use a patient’s comorbidities (two existing chronic medical conditions) as a shield from their own negligence.
In cases like this, plaintiffs can focus on the following points:
• Those preexisting conditions were what necessitated the resident’s admission into a nursing home in the first place;
• The nursing home facility made promises to a resident’s relatives that it was qualified to provide good care to the patient — and that it would do so;
• The facility receives payment to provide that good care, and if it knew about existing deficiencies that would prevent it from providing the individualized care the injured resident needed, it should not have admitted that patient;
• Nursing home facilities are required by law to provide quality care to residents no matter what the specific circumstances are; and
• No particular medical condition is a reason that a resident should ever be neglected.
The fact of the matter is that families typically only admit a loved one to a nursing facility when they can no longer provide safe, adequate care for their relative. Nursing homes are paid to provide that care, and furthermore, they are obligated to follow a standard of care to keep their residents as safe as possible. Overcoming potential juror bias in nursing home abuse or neglect cases will often require showing that the facility has violated that standard of care, often in a knowing manner that places profits over patient safety. This can then result in the jury holding the negligent nursing facility legally liable — and hopefully prevent any other patients from suffering personal injury or death due to nursing home negligence.
Disclaimer: The choice of a lawyer is an important decision and should not be based solely upon advertisements.
Source: “Protect the Innocent: Establish elopement liability” by Staci M. Yandle. March 2013, Volume 49, No. 3.