Patient Fell Off Scale at NY Hospital – Case Will Proceed

In Patel v. American Medical Response, Inc., et al, the representative of a deceased patient brought a negligence action against an ambulance operator and hospital to recover damages for personal injuries sustained after EMT left him unattended on a scale.  The patient fell off the scale. The Supreme Court of Nassau County denied the hospital’s motion for summary judgment and the hospital appealed. The Appellate Division held that an issue of fact existed and precluded summary judgment in favor of the hospital.

In 2009, plaintiff’s decedent was suffering from end-stage renal disease and received dialysis treatment three times a week at a dialysis unit operated by Winthrop University Hospital. The decedent testified at a deposition that on October 9, 2009, two emergency medical technicians, employed by the defendant, American Medical Response, Inc., transported him by ambulance from his home to the dialysis Treatment facility.  According to decedent’s testimony, the EMTs brought him to the dialysis unit on and off a stretcher and later helped him stand up on a scale. However, the EMTs left the patient unattended while on the sale, where he lost his balance, fell, and sustained injuries. He later filed a personal injury lawsuit to recover damages for his personal injuries. He later died from his underlying medical condition, when his son, was substituted as the plaintiff in this matter.

According to the Second Department, “a hospital has a duty to safeguard the welfare of its patients, even from harm inflicted by third persons, measured by the capacity of the patient to provide for his or her own safety.” Id.  Although a hospital is not required to keep each patient under constant surveillance, a hospital has a duty to safeguard the patient’s safety against risks that a “reasonably foreseeable.” Id.
In order for a plaintiff to bring a successful negligence cause of action, a plaintiff must established that the defendant owed the plaintiff a duty of care, that the defendant’s action or in-action breached that duty, was the actual and proximate cause of the plaintiff’s injuries, and that the plaintiff actually suffered an injury. Here, the court found that the hospital owed a duty to the decedent and that the hospital breached its duty of care.

The decedent was transported to the defendant’s facility for dialysis treatment because he was suffering from end-stages of a renal disease. Because of the illness, it is likely that the decedent could have been weak and unable to maintain his balance without assistance. He was therefore a “fall risk”.  Therefore, the court concluded that it was reasonably foreseeable that someone with such an illness, who was transported to a facility by an ambulance, could fall while being weighed in at the dialysis unit, if not properly supervised. Therefore, the court found that the decedent’s injury was reasonably foreseeable and the hospital may have breached its duty owed to the decedent.

The attorneys at Gallivan & Gallivan handle many cases involving falls at hospitals, nursing homes and assisted living facilities.  Please call us with any questions.

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