What Options Do You Have if Your Loved One Was Killed by a Fellow Resident at a Nursing Home in Massachusetts?

When you entrust a loved one to the care of a nursing home, you understand that there are certain risks and that certain bad things can happen. The chances are, though, that you don’t expect that those things include having your loved one brutally killed by their roommate in an unprovoked attack. Depending on the circumstances of the attack and the events leading up to the attack, the nursing home may have some responsibility for creating the conditions that led to the death. If that happens, your family might have certain legal rights against the nursing home. A knowledgeable Massachusetts nursing home negligence attorney can advise you about your options.

One of the most recent fatal roommate-on-roommate nursing home attack cases, reported by the Boston Globe, occurred at a nursing home in Randolph. The 86-year-old James was lying in bed when his roommate, the 58-year-old Walter, attacked him with a heavy ceramic flower pot. The next day, the injured man died from severe head trauma.

James’ death is not the first of its kind in Massachusetts. A few years ago, a family pursued a wrongful death action on behalf of their 100-year-old loved one. Elizabeth died after her 98-year-old nursing home roommate, Laura, beat her and then strangled and suffocated her with a plastic bag. Elizabeth’s family was unable to win their wrongful death lawsuit against the nursing home because they simply didn’t have the evidence they needed to show that the nursing home knew or should have known that Laura was at risk of murdering her roommate.

The key to winning a wrongful death case in this type of scenario is having what Elizabeth’s family didn’t have:  proof that the facility knew or should have known about that danger or proof that the facility’s actions or inactions in some way elevated the risk. These factors are what potentially make the more recent circumstance in Randolph different from Elizabeth’s earlier death in Dartmouth.

Walter had become more and more paranoid in his behavior over time. His paranoid delusions included a fear that a “friend” intended to rape his wife and kill him. Walter had “yanked pictures off walls, smashed glass, and wandered into other residents’ rooms, taking their food and belongings,” according to the Globe.

After these disturbing behaviors, a nurse practitioner treated Walter by ordering mood-stabilizing drugs. The drugs helped for a time, but then the nursing home staff neglected to administer the drug to Walter for a month, according to the Globe report, which cited a Department of Public Health investigative report. That month without the drugs potentially created the environment that ended in James’ death.

Unlike the Dartmouth case, in which the plaintiff lacked proof that the nursing home knew or should have known about the roommate’s violent tendencies, Walter had a documented history of violence that at least one medical professional at the facility concluded was a result of a mood disorder and required a mood stabilizer to treat. It is possible that James’ family could argue that the nursing home either actually knew or at least should have known that, without the drug, Walter was a danger. All of this means that, in a circumstance like James’ death, the family might have a stronger legal case than the family of Elizabeth had.

While no amount of money can replace a lost loved one, if your loved one died unnecessarily in the care of a nursing home because the staff there didn’t do what they should have, you may have certain rights in the civil legal system. For thoughtful advice and diligent representation in nursing home negligence actions, reach out to experienced Plymouth County nursing home negligence lawyer Michael S. Mehrmann. Our team has been working for many years to help families across Plymouth County, including in Kingston, Plymouth, Marshfield, Hanson, Carver, Pembroke, and Duxbury, who have been affected by nursing home negligence. To find out more about how we can assist you, call (781) 585-3911 or contact us online.