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Jury Finds Hospice Care Liability

A jury found professional negligence, and inadequate care was provided to an 85-year-old hospice patient who sought a dignified, painless death from multiple, concurrent cancers. The case is Nebraska’s first hospice care verdict.

Domina Law Group pc llo’s 85-year-old client, with the support of her daughters, chose to become a hospice resident at a business location advertising its services to those with terminal illnesses. The business operated under the auspicious name “Hospice House”.

During her stay at the facility, the patient was prescribed several standard pain control medications, including Duragesic, administered with a patch, and a form of morphine sold as Roxanol. Physician orders for the medication were not followed. One of the medications was withheld from the patient. The other was administered at approximately half dosage.

An advanced nurse practitioner and family friend saw the patient recently, complained of her care, but could get no assistance and was not on the nursing staff to take matters in her own hands. She testified graphically about the patient’s suffering.

A PhD nursing professor, and a leading national expert on pharmacology, testified that the care was substandard and the patient suffered as a result.

The jury agreed.

A separate claim, against the business itself alleging it falsely portrayed itself to the public was not submitted to the jury. The trial judge believed the only measure of damages for the fraud could be the difference between the cost of hospice care as such, and the charge for the actual kind of care administered. “While we’re happy with the verdict’s finding of fault on the negligence claim, we strongly believe the trial court committed error by not submitting the fraud claim. Commercial damages rules do not apply when fraud causes a patient to place herself, while in a helpless state, in the charge of persons not licensed or qualified to perform the services they claim ability to perform”. David Domina and Linda Christensen, who tried the case for the patient’s daughters, have not decided whether the adverse ruling on the fraud claim will be appealed.

“Since the case was filed, the ‘Hospice House’ has taken steps to bring itself into compliance with the law,” Domina said. “It is a remarkable tragedy that the business was not able to be accurate in presenting itself to the public at the outset.”

Domina Law Group pc llo is a firm of trial lawyers. We specialize in complex litigation on a national basis. Our lawyers are ethical, aggressive, and committed to providing spirit and vitality to the judicial system and our client’s legal rights.

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