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Colorado Attorneys specializing in Nursing Home Neglect & Abuse, Medical Malpractice, Consumer Protection and Civil Rights

Check to See if the Toothbrush is Dusty

The New York Times recently reported on the problems associated with poor dental hygiene in nursing homes around the country.  The article centered in on an elderly nursing home resident in Virginia who had been complaining of pain in his mouth but was not sent to the dentist for treatment, even despite that he had dental insurance.  Once his daughter finally demanded he be sent to the dentist it was discovered that his tooth had broken in two and a piece of the broken tooth had lodged in the roof of his mouth.

 

The article suggests that dental hygiene in nursing homes is seriously lacking for a number of reasons.  One is that aides don’t have time to deal with oral care given the number of residents and other tasks they are swamped with.  Another is that residents who suffer from diseases like dementia are often resistant to oral care.

 

Neglect in oral hygiene, according to the article, may be even more serious than at first imagined.  New studies are suggesting that there is a correlation between poor oral hygiene and pneumonia, which is a leading killer of elderly nursing home residents.

 

To read the article and learn more about the study, click on Catherine Saint Louis’s article in the New York Times here:

http://well.blogs.nytimes.com/2013/08/04/in-nursing-homes-an-epidemic-of-poor-dental-hygiene/?_r=0

 

 

Watch out for those Arbitration Agreements!

The Law Offices of J.M. Reinan, P.C. has previously cautioned prospective or current consumers of long-term care, including nursing home residents and assisted living residents, against the dangers of entering into an arbitration agreement.  Arbitration agreements are legal in Colorado and are generally favored by the Courts.  However, these agreements are almost never favorable for nursing home residents or residents of assisted living facilities, where they are often used, and often at the time of admission when things are feeling rushed and there is a lot of pressure to get in.

 

Arbitration agreements will often be sold to would-be consumers of long term care services as the less expensive, quicker and more efficient avenue than jury trials or litigation.  None of these statements are generally true.

 

In most arbitration agreements, the consumer of long-term care or nursing home services is required to pay at least half (and sometimes all) of the arbitrator’s fee up front.  This means that when you file an arbitration action against a nursing home or assisted living facility, you will be required to pay sometimes between $4,000 and $16,000 up front.  Filing a civil lawsuit, on the other hand, costs less than $500.00 dollars.  With a civil lawsuit, you do not need to pay for the judge or jury; with arbitration, the arbitrator charges by the hour.  The rate for the arbitrator usually runs approximately $400 to $500 per hour.  If there are three arbitrators, which is often the case, you will have to pay three times that amount.  Thus, the argument that arbitration is less costly is usually a fallacy.

 

As for efficiency and quickness, in many cases, victims of nursing home abuse or assisted living facility neglect have a statutory right to a 120-day trial setting.  This is because there is a statute in Colorado that allows elderly or ill litigants to have a faster litigation process.  In other words, for plaintiffs that meet the criteria of that statute, from the time the case is filed until the time of trial can be as short as 4-months.  Some arbitrations, however, take between six months and a year or even longer to get set.  Thus, the argument that the arbitration is quicker and faster is also a fallacy.

 

Finally, arbitration will be sold by nursing homes and assisted living facilities as a better alternative to a jury trial.  In most cases, there is nothing better about having your case decided by a single arbitrator, who is usually an attorney or retired judge, than a jury made up of your peers.  Often times these arbitrators tend to be more conservative than juries, and thus less likely to award a proper amount of damages.  In addition, there is the argument that arbitrators know where their bread is buttered, e.g., that the nursing home or assisted living facility that enforced the arbitration agreement will return to the same arbitrator again and again if the arbitrator renders a favorable outcome.  There is nothing positive for a nursing home or assisted living claimant in this scenario.

 

Perhaps the most dangerous thing we have seen recently involves the agreement to limit or “cap” your damages as part of the arbitration.  If you have a jury trial, you are entitled in some cases to claim punitive damages, which are damages designed to punish a nursing home or assisted living facility for particularly egregious or intentional behavior.  Many arbitration agreements contain language stating that the patient agrees not to seek punitive damages and some agreements that we have seen lately even set the amount of available damages for less than what you would be entitled to at a jury trial.  For example, if you sue a Colorado assisted living facility in a jury trial, you are typically entitled to a cap of $468,000 in non-economic damages.  Some of these agreements limit your damages to $300,000 or sometimes even $250,000.

 

It is our suggestion that you think carefully before signing an agreement for yourself or for your loved one.  Even if you sign an arbitration agreement as the daughter or son or power of attorney of a parent going into a nursing home, that arbitration agreement may be enforceable against you personally later on.

 

Buyer beware.  If you have any questions about an arbitration agreement, please call us for a free consultation.

 

 

Lawsuit Filed Against Colorado Home Health Agency for Negligence, Civil Theft, Fraud, Consumer Protection Violations

The Law Offices of JM Reinan, PC represents an elderly woman in her mid-90’s who has, through her legal representative, brought claims against her former home health care agency.  Among others, the claims brought against the Colorado agency in the lawsuit are for negligence, violation of the Colorado Consumer Protection Act, conversion of property, fraud and civil theft.

 

The suit alleges that the elderly woman initially contracted with the home health agency for home health care services in late 2009.  At the time, the contract was for part-time home health care due to the woman’s progressing dementia and an inability to fully and safely manage her own care needs.  The suit alleges that over time, her dementia worsened to the point where she became unable to make decisions on her own or competently sign documents on her own behalf.  The suit alleges that despite her known advancing dementia and despite what should have been a known inability to legally and competently sign documents on her own behalf, the home health agency continued to have her sign contracts with them increasing the level, amount and price of its services.  The suit alleges that ultimately the home health agency was providing 24/7 services at a price of over $200,000.00 per year.  The suit further alleges that on multiple occasions employees of the home health agency used the elderly woman’s funds to rent rooms at expensive hotels as well as to obtain room service and meals.

 

It is further alleged that employees of the home health agency contacted the woman’s bank to obtain information about her accounts.  According to the suit, in late November, 2011, an employee of the bank became concerned about this woman and reported these issues to Adult Protective Services.  The Court got involved, and she now has advocates overseeing her care and finances.

 

The civil lawsuit was filed in May 2013, and a preferential trial date will be sought on account of advanced age.

 

 

 

 

Diane Weissmuller Pays it Forward in Honor of her Mother and World Elder Abuse Awareness Day

The Law Offices of JM Reinan, PC’s client, Diane Weissmuller, has set up the Leola Jones Memorial Award in honor of her mother.  As part of the Memorial Award, the District Attorney’s Office and students at Sanchez Elementary School in Lafayette, Colorado partnered to create a logo for World Elder Abuse Awareness Day 2013, coming up on June 15.  The children’s art was displayed at the Boulder County Justice Center, where community members helped to select a winner.

 

If you are reading this thinking that the name Weissmuller sounds familiar, you’re right – Diane is the widow of Johnny Weissmuller, Jr., whose father was the original Tarzan and Olympic swimmer!

 

Our firm has the deepest respect for Diane and her work.  Her kindness and generosity will make a difference in generating awareness of elder abuse.

 

J Reinan to Participate in 2013 Hemmings Motor News Great Race

J Reinan loves old cars and can’t imagine a better way to spend 9 days than driving a great one down the Mighty Mississippi!

 

The Great Race was first inaugurated in 1983 with the idea of racing pre-World War II automobiles across the United States for a large purse.  After a successful first event, the Great Race has continued to be a widely celebrated annual event among car nuts and packs of fans who line up along the route – which varies from year to year – to cheer them along.

 

This year’s Great Race will begin in St. Paul, MN, and then head south through La Crosse, WI; to Davenport, IA; to Hannibal, MO; to Cape Girardeau, MO; to Germantown, TN; to Vicksburg, MS; to Baton Rouge, LA; to Covington, LA; and wind up in Mobile, AL.

 

J will be driving a 1931 Rolls Royce Shooting Brake and will be accompanied by family and friends.  His car will sponsor the Cystic Fibrosis Foundation in honor of his cousin’s son, Max, who is hoping a cure will be developed for this serious disease.

 

Read more about the Great Race and see a picture of J’s gem of a ride in the link below:

 

http://www.greatrace.com/news/new-entry-for-great-race-2013.html#more-4239

 

Boulder County Jury Finds in Favor of George Pappageorge in Wrongful Death Case

The Law Offices of JM Reinan, PC represented George Pappageorge in a wrongful death case concerning his wife, Elaine Pappageorge.  Mr. Pappageorge brought suit against Mrs. Pappageorge’s former nursing home, Boulder Manor, a facility located in Boulder, Colorado that is owned and operated by SavaSeniorCare.  The case was tried to a Boulder County jury from March 11 to March 15, 2013.

 

Mr. Pappageorge claimed that his wife was placed at Boulder Manor for rehabilitation following a hospitalization at Boulder Community Hospital where she underwent a gallbladder surgery.  At the time, Mrs. Pappageorge was 80 years old with a history of Multiple Sclerosis, Dementia and other long-standing health issues.

 

While at Boulder Manor, Mrs. Pappageorge suffered a femur fracture.  Mr. Pappageorge claimed that the femur fractured happened as result of the negligence of Boulder Manor.  The Boulder Manor staff did not chart when or how the femur fracture occurred.  Boulder Manor claimed at trial that the fracture was spontaneous and that the Boulder Manor staff did nothing to cause the fracture.  Boulder Manor’s orthopedic expert testified that Mrs. Pappageorge had severe osteoporosis and that her femur bone was so weak that it just crumbled.  Mr. Pappageorge’s orthopedic expert testified, to the contrary, that the femur fracture – which the x-rays showed to be a complete fracture across the lower part of the femur with compaction and angulation – could have only occurred with some sort of trauma, like a fall.

 

Mrs. Pappageorge was placed on hospice following the femur fracture and died less than a month later.  The Boulder County Coroner, Emma Hall, testified at trial that Mrs. Pappageorge died as a result of complications from the femur fracture and that the manner of her death was accidental, not natural.

 

The jury found that Boulder Manor was negligent and caused Mrs. Pappageorge’s wrongful death.  The jury awarded $95,000.00 in damages.

 

 

Article Published in Law Week Colorado Concerning Conflict of Interest Issues with Jefferson County District Court Judge

Yesterday, Law Week Colorado published an article concerning motions to recuse a Jefferson County District Court Judge filed by our firm in four cases over which that judge is currently presiding.

 

A link to the Law Week Colorado is below, and can also be found in the Articles section of this website:

 

http://www.lawweekonline.com/2013/02/judges-relationship-raises-conflict-of-interest-issues/

 

Reinan to Present at Advanced Elder Law Symposium

The Advanced Elder Law Institute will be hosting a symposium titled, “An Integrated Approach to Aging in America” on February 14, 2013 thru February 15, 2013.  Attorney J Reinan has been asked to join the presentation faculty, and will present on Nursing Home Litigation.

 

Among the topics in his presentation, Mr. Reinan will speak on arbitration agreements used in long-term care settings; elder abuse and neglect; nursing home negligence; consumer protection; and the rights of seniors and disabled individuals confined to long-term care facilities, including nursing homes, assisted living facilities and retirement communities.

 

The overarching purpose of the Advanced Elder Law Symposium is to provide advanced training and guidance to elder law professionals in Colorado.  Other program highlights include:

 

– Case Law and Legislative Update

– Medicaid Update

– Advance Directives

– Litigating Non-Probate Transfers

– Conservator Reports and Forensic Accountings

– What is Dementia? Types, Diagnosis, Prognosis; Traumatic Brain Injury

– At-Risk Adults – Law, Reporting and Trends

– Jurisdiction and the Changing Law in Guardianships and Protective Proceedings Around the Country

– Changes to the Estate Plan by Ward or Protected Person

– Representing the Protected Person

– Elders in the Criminal Justice System

– Nursing Home Litigation

– Elder Law Mediation

– County Court and Elder Law Issues

Family Files Wrongful Death Suit Against Home Health Care Company and Retirement Community

Our clients have filed a suit in Larimer County District Court against Visiting Angels and Rigden Farms Senior Living (“Rigden Farms”) for the wrongful death of their mother.  The family has also brought a claim for deceptive trade practices against these entities.

 

The suit alleges, among other things, that Rigden Farms, a senior community, essentially held itself out as an assisted living facility with a higher level of care by allowing a home health care agency, Visiting Angels, to have an office on the Rigden Farms campus, free of charge.  Plaintiffs allege that both Rigden Farms and Visiting Angels agreed to care for their mother.

 

The Plaintiffs allege that Visiting Angels was supposed to send a caregiver to check in on their mother, who had developed flu-like symptoms.  The suit alleges that no caregiver came as scheduled.  The family claims that when Visiting Angels did come in for its next visit, their mother was found in bed and was noted to be “very confused.” She was normally independent and cognitively intact.  The family claims that Visiting Angels failed to notify them of their mother’s serious change of condition and that Visiting Angels also failed to send a caregiver back that afternoon.

 

Plaintiffs allege that the next time a Visiting Angels caregiver came to check on their mother she was found unresponsive in her chair.  She had also vomited in her bed profusely.  The suit alleges that the caregiver simply made the bed over the vomit without cleaning it up, and again failed to notify medical personnel and the family about her near-death condition.   When one of the Plaintiff-daughters attempted to call her mother later that day, her mother did not pick up.  The daughter then went to Rigden Farms and found her mother in the same position that she had been left in some hours earlier by the Visiting Angels caregiver.  The daughter called 911 and her mother was emergently transported to the hospital, where she died a few hours later.

 

The Plaintiffs claim that Visiting Angels and Rigden Farms engaged in a joint venture with regard to the home healthcare services provided to their mother.  The Plaintiffs allege that these Defendants acted negligently in the care and supervision provided to their mother, and also that they misrepresented the quality and quantity of the care and services they provided in their marketing and advertising materials.

 

 

 

Second Suit Filed in Federal Court Against AFIC and Panio Alleging Abusive Treatment and Fraud

The Law Offices of JM Reinan, PC, on behalf of the James family, has filed a suit in Federal Court against the Adolescent and Family Institute of Colorado (“AFIC”), its owners Alexander Panio, Jr. and his wife, Mary Panio, along with individual AFIC employees and its medical director.  This is the seventh suit the Law Offices of JM Reinan, PC has filed against AFIC and Alexander Panio, Jr., and the second suit filed in Federal Court.

 

The James’ lawsuit alleges “abusive, fraudulent and harmful” treatment at AFIC that led the family’s son, then 17 years old, to attempt suicide.  The suit further alleges that when Mrs. James contacted the AFIC therapist in charge of her son’s care to inform the therapist that her son was threatening suicide, the therapist instructed Mrs. James to go ahead and let him go through with it.  The abusive treatment alleged in the suit includes, among other things, repeatedly calling the minor child derogatory names, persistent use of profane and inappropriate language, and use of improper tactics and methods to divide and destroy the James family.

 

The suit further alleges that Alexander Panio, who calls himself a doctor and has others refer to him as “Dr. Panio”, is in fact not a doctor, and the PhD he purportedly obtained was purchased from an unaccredited diploma mill, which is now defunct.

 

There are multiple claims for relief brought in the suit, including violation of the Racketeer Influenced and Corrupt Organizations Act (“RICO”); violation of the Colorado Consumer Protection Act (“CCPA”); negligence, including battery and lack of informed consent; breach of fiduciary duty; unauthorized practice of medicine; fraud; and civil conspiracy.

 

To read about this lawsuit in further detail, click on the link below:

 

http://www.courthousenews.com/2012/10/12/51226.htm