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94-Year-Old Wheelchair Resident Killed in Alabama Nursing Home Fire Drill

Oct 30, 2012 - Personal Injury by

A 94-year-old Decatur woman died over the weekend after rolling downhill away from a nursing home during an apparent fire drill.

As we reported in October on our Alabama Injury Attorneys Blog, the recently passed trust-fund amendment was championed by the nursing home industry as a way to avoid drastic cuts that could lead to short-staffing and neglect in nursing homes and assisted living facilities throughout Alabama.

While we await all the facts and circumstances of this particular case, here’s what we know: The elderly woman was hospitalized Wednesday after her wheelchair rolled downhill outside the Country Cottage Living Facility. A relative said she developed pneumonia after the accident, although cause of death has not yet been determined.

Decatur Fire and Rescue reports the nursing facility was conducting a fire drill at the time of the incident. A caregiver told rescue workers she discovered the victim had rolled downhill into a ditch full of water.

The Decatur Daily reports Morgan County Coroner Jeff Chunn categorized it as a fall injury, which he noted are quite common among elderly.

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention reports fall accidents in nursing homes are an epidemic. In fact, the average 100-bed nursing home reports 200 falls a year.

As many as two-thirds of nursing home residents fall each year. Broken bones and joints frequently result. Functional decline and a reduced quality of life are often resultant consequences. And fear of falling may result in loss of function, depression and isolation.

Accidents involving wheelchair victims may also result in a premises liability claim, particularly in cases where a property owner or business owner does not take steps to comply with the American with Disabilities Act of 1990, as well as the ADA Amendments Act of 2008. In part, the act states: “no individual may be discriminated against on the basis of disability with regards to the full and equal enjoyment of the goods, services, facilities, or accommodations of any place of public accommodation by any person who owns, leases (or leases to), or operates a place of public accommodation. “Public accommodations” include most places of lodging (such as inns and hotels), recreation, transportation, education, and dining, along with stores, care providers, and places of public displays, among other things.”

It applies to all new construction and has some application to existing facilities. When a business fails to make reasonable accommodations, whether it’s sufficient handicapped parking spaces in the lot, or ramp and elevator access throughout the building, serious and fatal injuries can result.

Additional Resources

94-year-old Decatur woman dies after wheelchair accident,By Paul Huggines, Al.com, Oct. 28, 2012.

Boudreaux v. Pettaway & the Fight to Hold Negligent Parties Responsible for Wrongful Death, By Cross & Smith LLC, Oct. 20, 2012.

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