We represent a lot of older clients. Many of them get hurt on Holland America Cruises. Others are injured in assisted living facilities and nursing homes.
We recently represented a family who lost their father. He was a resident in a facility that provides graduated levels of care when he developed a pressure sore on his heel.
Unfortunately the pressure sore was not identified in time. The father’s leg was amputated below the knee. The amputation, in many senses, was the beginning of the end. The father died within six months.
The father’s family hired us to pursue a wrongful death action against the facility. The facility mounted a two-pronged defense. It argued that (1) it wasn’t responsible for either preventing or identifying pressure sores and (2) even if it was responsible, the father was old and in poor health.
We charged forward. The facilities marketing materials (and Washington law) clearly made it responsible for the pressure sores and the delay in treatment. Pressure sores do not happen in the absence of negligence.
But maybe more important was the argument (essentially) that the lives of older people are not worth very much. While the Office of the Insurance Commissioner publishes a mortality table that said the father only had a couple years to live, we took the position that the last drops in a canteen are the most valuable. This resonated with the facility and it settled the case for just about ten times the amount the father made per year while he was working.
The settlement didn’t bring the father back to life. And it didn’t give the family members a chance to spend more time with their dad. But it did acknowledge that his life had value and that the facility failed to keep the promises it made to the father’s family.