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Hospital Ignores Complaints of Patient with Fatal Infection
We represented the estate of a 82-year-old woman who died when a Delaware County hospital didn’t recognize the extent of a lower back infection. While her symptoms pointed to an infection, the hospital staff largely ignored her complaints, attributing it to her being cranky and older, something we commonly find when representing elderly people. The estate was comprised of her husband and children and they had an active, warm family life right up until the time she was hospitalized from the infection, which spread and led to her death. At trial, the defense continually pointed to our client’s age and attempted to paint a picture that since she was 80 years old, she didn’t experience “life’s pleasures” any longer, and her damages should be minimized. We effectively countered that one’s later years could be, should be, and often were the happiest ones, a premise that we use whenever we represent an elderly client. The case settled after closing arguments, for a substantial but confidential amount.

Nursing Home Resident Left in Restroom Suffers Tragic Fall
In a case that was rejected by two other Philadelphia law firms, we represented an elderly woman who was a full-time resident in a suburban Philadelphia nursing home. She was able to move about her room with the assistance of a walker and a nursing aide, but the nursing home placed her on strict instructions not to walk without staff assistance. After a nurse helped our client to the restroom, she pushed a call button, but there was no response. She then hollered for the nurse to assist her back to her bed, but no one responded for 15 minutes. Our client, getting anxious and feeling scared, attempted to walk back to her bed herself, using her walker for assistance. Unfortunately, she fell and broke her hip, resulting in three operations and over $65,000 in medical bills. In many nursing home settings, we have found that staff is spread too thin to meet patient needs. As a result, many basic, but necessary, services and activities are not delivered. Because of our client’s advanced age, we filed suit in federal court, where the docket often moves faster than in state court. The case was settled by the federal court magistrate judge after two settlement conferences.

Diabetic Condition Improperly Managed by Nursing Home Facility
We represented an 80-year-old woman in relatively good health, but who had trouble managing a diabetic condition. As a result, her children decided that a nursing home would be a better environment for her. However, after just a few weeks of residency, she was transported twice to a hospital because her diabetic condition spiked, something that never happened when her children – with no specialized training – cared for her. A few weeks later, when her sugar became extremely elevated, she was transported back to the hospital, but went into septic shock and diabetic ketadosis and died. Shaffer & Gaier filed a wrongful death and survival action against the nursing home and its attending physician. After extensive discovery, the parties agreed to submit the matter to binding arbitration. We presented experts that proved that the nursing home failed to properly monitor or recognize her severe condition. Several family members testified that she was truly in her golden years – enjoying her grandchildren and great grandchildren and very active in her church. The arbitrator returned a substantial award in our favor.

Incredible (and sometimes downright unbelievable) stories of things that happened with cases.
(Really, they did.)

Lessons Worth Learning.
We had a very long seat belt product liability trial in federal court. The trial was lengthy, complex and stressful. The federal judge was a senior judge and 82 years old at the time of trial. During the trial, we settled with one defendant but the jury unfortunately returned a verdict in favor of the remaining defendant. After the trial, the judge wrote us a letter that is actually framed in our office. It reads as follows:

“I told you that this case was a pain in the ass. It does not mean that I did not learn anything. Everything is worth it if we learn something new. It is one of the rewards of our profession. I repeat what I told you – you did a great job in serving your client. Of paramount importance is that you were effective advocates consistent with the best qualities and standards of the  profession.”

The defense verdict was not easy to swallow but the judge’s wise words sure put things in perspective.