Court uphold summary dismissal of nursing home malpractice case arising out of fall
The Estate of Adelinda O'Donnell sued the Shelby Nursing Center and multiple other defendants, claiming that Adelinda died because the nursing home failed to institute adequate fall protections. Adelinda fell in the middle of the night and broke her arm; her daughters were called to the scene and Adelinda refused to explain what happened until she and her daughters arrived at the Emergency Room. The nursing home told her family that she fell while attempting to get out of bed. At the ER, she told her daughters that she was dropped by a nurse aide who was helping her out of bed.
Adelinda did not recover from her injuries and died soon after. The family claimed that her fall and injuries and complications of her injuries were a cause of her subsequent death. They filed a lawsuit supported by a nurse who offered the opinion that Adelinda's bed should have been equipped with an "unweighting" alarm which would have enabled staff to respond in time to prevent a fall.
The trial judge ruled that Adelinda's explanation of the fall was inadmissible hearsay. He also ruled that the family's nurse was not qualified to offer the opinion that an alarm would have prevented the fall because she could not prove that there would be time between the alarm sounding and the woman actually falling to the floor. The appellate judges agreed, concluding that there was no basis in the rules of evidence to support the inherent reliability of Adelinda's account of the fall and it was "mere speculation" by the nurse with regard to whether the fall was avoidable.