Hospital Wheelchair Fall Lawsuit

Butler v. Prince Georges Hospital Center

Hospital Wheelchair transport This medical malpractice claim was filed in Prince George's County after hospital staff failed to provide safe wheelchair transport. It was filed in Health Claims Arbitration on February 22, 2018, and it is the 92nd medical malpractice case filed in Maryland this year.

Summary of Plaintiff's Allegations

A woman was examined in the Prince George's Hospital Center Emergency Department. She presented with right leg weakness, difficulty walking, frequent urination, and back pain exacerbated by movement. During her overnight stay in the Emergency Department, the woman's back pain worsened to the point where she required narcotics.

Before she could be discharged the next day, the woman requested copies of her radiology studies. While waiting at the information desk, the woman told the receptionist that she was unable to walk any farther and needed a wheelchair to get to the radiology suite.

While her films were being copied onto a CD, the radiology receptionist called the hospital's in-house transport service to request an escort to take the woman out to her car where her daughter was waiting. Ultimately, no one from the transport service ever arrived, so the receptionist decided to take the woman outside herself.

The receptionist pushed the woman in the wheelchair out to the sidewalk curb where the woman's daughter was parked. Instead of aligning the wheelchair with the vehicle and assisting the woman from the chair to the vehicle, the receptionist instructed the woman to exit the wheelchair on her own. The woman, who had already displayed right leg weakness and difficulty walking, fell while trying to make her way to the car. She sustained multiple injuries in the fall, including a severe arm fracture which required surgery.

Additional Comments
  • In some hospital fall incidences, the hospital can claim there was no way to anticipate a patient was at risk of falling. When a patient doesn't have any symptoms of balance or walking difficulties, the hospital's standard of care may not include fall precaution measures. In this case, however, the hospital staff should have been well aware of the claimant's fall risk. Considering her symptoms of back pain and leg weakness, it's amazing that the hospital didn't provide the claimant with wheelchair transport to begin with. Not only did the woman have to request a wheelchair of her own accord, she was also transported by a receptionist who was not properly trained to perform safe transportation assistance.

  • One defense to this case will be that the woman made a choice to follow a receptionist's instructions and walk on her own, knowing that the woman was not a healthcare provider. This is a tough argument for the PG Hospital to make.

  • Arguably, if the receptionist was not a healthcare provider under the statute, this is not a medical malpractice case that needed to be filed in health claims. But why take the chance? Many trees have been chopped down to supply the paperwork when there is a dispute as to whether the case belongs in health claims. Smartly, the medical malpractice lawyers in this case chose the safest route.

  • Prince George's Hospital Center hopes to move to a new building in 2021 and is seeking to change it reputation as a "D" hospital. Why they would not get a case like this settled is hard to understand. If some version of these facts is accurate, the hospital made a mistake. Why not just pay out the claim and spend your energies trying to improve this "D" grade and the hospital's reputation?

Jurisdiction
  • Prince George's County
Defendants
  • Dimension Health Corporation d/b/a Prince Georges Hospital Center
Hospitals Where Patient was Treated
  • Prince Georges Hospital Center
Negligence
  • Failing to provide safe wheelchair transport to a safe destination.
  • Failing to transfer the claimant in a safe manner.
  • Failing to assist the claimant in exiting the wheelchair.
  • Failing to utilize the existing curb cutouts to decrease the likelihood of fall and injury.
  • Failing to adequately train and supervise employees.
Specific Counts Pled
  • As a direct result of the defendant's negligence, the claimant suffered both non-economic and economic damages, including a broken arm and related medical expenses.

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