By Kosieradzki Smith Law Firm / February 21, 2017
As reported in today’s Star Tribune, the Minnesota Department of Health (MDH) has reversed its earlier decision regarding the death of resident at the Minnesota Veterans Home-Minneapolis nursing home. The MDH originally determined that the Minnesota Veterans Home-Minneapolis did not neglect the resident. As the Star Tribune reports, “Reversing a previous conclusion, state investigators are faulting management of the state veterans home in Minneapolis for the death of World War II veteran who fell from a mobility sling last year and broke his neck.”
That veteran was Frederick Switzer, who had served in the Army in World War II, including the Battle of Remagen in Germany (March of 1945). Mr. Switzer died in July 2015 after the staff at the Vets Home failed to safely transfer him in a mechanical lift. Physically unable to protect himself, he fell over four feet from the suspended lift, landing on his head on the hard floor.
Nearly a year after the fatal trauma, the MDH issued its investigation report in May 2016, declaring that the Vets Home and its staff did nothing wrong.
Mr. Switzer’s wife, Maureen, hired the Kosieradzki Smith Law Firm to investigate what had happened to her husband. As the Star Tribune reports, “Attorney Joel Smith, who’s representing the family in a lawsuit against the home’s operators, said Monday that ‘the reason the [Health Department] reversed its earlier decision was due to the surviving spouse’s persistence in challenging’ the earlier determination.
We at the Kosieradzki Smith Law Firm are honored to represent Mrs. Switzer in her effort to hold the Vets Home accountable for the wrongful death of her husband. The case is pending in Hennepin County with a trial scheduled for May 2017.
In addition to representing Mrs. Switzer in the wrongful death law suit, we helped her challenge the MDH’s flawed investigation. We informed the MDH that that the manufacturer of the lift, who had inspected the lift and found it to be in proper working order, reported to the federal government that the “facility indicated a need for training due to individuals having not been trained at all and other needing to understand how to properly use the equipment [with] patients.” The manufacturer also reported to the federal government that the Mr. Switzer’s fall while suspended from the lift was “due to the root cause of caregiver inattention and technique[.]”
From the deposition testimony that we took in the wrongful death case, we uncovered the fact that the floor nurse on duty at the time Mr. Switzer was injured was surprised when she had discovered that her staff was using a white mesh sling that is used for showing patients, not transferring them from a bed to a wheelchair. Her staff told her that the shower sling has the ability to stretch, “So when they lifted him, that allowed a shifting of the weight.” The floor nurse testified that the “standard sling would have been safer. If I was transferring him from the bed I would have preferred the standard sling.” The aides did not have the supervising floor nurse’s permission to use the shower sling instead of the standard sling to transfer Mr. Switzer.
In addition, the floor nurse testified that one week prior to Mr. Switzer’s fall from the lift, another resident had been injured while the staff was using a full-body mechanical lift. The patient fell out of the sling. The staff was using the same type of white mesh shower sling that was used a week later for Mr. Switzer.
With this and additional information that we were able to provide to the MDH, the MDH reversed its determination and ruled that the Minnesota Veterans Home-Minneapolis was responsible the neglect of Mr. Switzer. See Investigation report no. H5620010. The MDH found that the Vets Home “failed to ensure [its] staff members used the correct slings when transferring vulnerable adults using full body lifts.”
Citizens cannot always rely on the government to protect them. The Kosieradzki • Smith Law Firm represents clients in cases involving catastrophic injury caused by nursing homes and other care facilities that fail to provide proper care. Many of these injuries are never reported to the Minnesota Department of Health because the nursing homes want to cover up their wrongdoing. Many of the cases that are reported to the MDH result in a finding by the MDH that is favorable to the nursing home because the investigator did not review all the evidence. If you believe your loved one has been harmed due neglect or abuse, take action today and contact the Kosieradzki • Smith Law Firm online or call us toll-free at (877) 552-2873 to set up a no-cost, no-obligation consultation.