Early last month, this blog discussed the case of an Alzheimer's patient killed by a fellow resident at a nursing home in New Jersey. This story demonstrated how tragedies can occur when such facilities breach the duty of care they owe to clients by failing to keep violent individuals properly supervised or isolated. Wrongful death lawsuits may be an option for families to pursue when a loved one has died due to apparent negligence in a health care facility, be they elderly residents in a nursing home or younger people in a mental health treatment program.
Recently, the mother of a 9-year-old Missouri girl filed a lawsuit against a mental health clinic that was also treating the 15-year-old girl who killed the child in 2007 and buried her in an isolated wooded area. The wrongful death suit alleges that the mental health clinic knew or should have known of the teenage girl's violent tendencies and should have taken greater steps to protect fellow patients from her.
The suit alleges that the teen's violent tendencies should have been apparent after she repeatedly cut herself and was hospitalized in a 2007 suicide attempt. The mental health clinic contends that it was not apparent that the teenage girl was a threat to anybody other than herself. The teen has since been sentenced to life in prison with the possibility of parole.
A wrongful death is one that occurs when someone is killed as a result of the negligence or carelessness of another person or institution. Wrongful death lawsuits are typically brought by the surviving relatives of the deceased victim. In order for a wrongful death lawsuit to succeed, the alleged negligence must be provable, there must be surviving relatives who have suffered and a personal representative for the victim's estate must be appointed.
Any family member of a victim of a wrongful death is entitled to just and fair compensation. In addition to the personal injury claim against the person or entity responsible, claimants are entitled to monetary damages to compensate for the person's death and for their own pain and suffering. The family of a person killed due to a health care facility's negligence, regardless of that individual's stage in life, has the right to a just outcome.
Source: New Jersey Herald, "Mom of slain Mo. Girl sues mental health provider," The Associated Press, Oct. 29, 2012