Nursing Home Countersues Although Liability Accepted for Man’s Choking Death

In 2013, an 82-year-old man died from a preventable choking incident at Woodhaven Care Center in New York. The nursing home accepted liability for the man’s death, and a jury awarded $1 million to the man’s family highlighting the issues with understaffing. The wrongful death lawsuit stated that inattentive nursing home staff failed to provide the man with his dentures and fed him food that was not a part of his dietary plan. The man was then left unsupervised, choked on the meal and died within moments after a nurse’s station video camera caught the incident. Staff also waited nearly 20 minutes before calling for help and dialing 911.

Today, Woodhaven has outrageously presented a countersuit against the family of the deceased for alleged money yet owed for his stay. Our nursing home abuse and neglect attorneys plan to follow this story as mediation in the case will be scheduled in the future.

Nursing Home Residents at High Risk for Choking Incidents

Sadly, over half of all choking deaths are attributed to the elderly residing in nursing homes (and to the older population in general). Medications and medical conditions typically present in nursing homes can affect a person’s ability to properly chew and swallow food. When mixing those issues with inattentive, overworked or unreliable staff, tragic circumstances are likely to be the result.

Residents can develop choking injuries or death due to:

  • Dental issues
  • Weakened muscles in the mouth and throat
  • Medications which decrease saliva production
  • Neurological disorders and brain injuries (Parkinson’s Disease, Cerebral Palsy, Dementia, Alzheimer’s Disease, Stroke)
  • Inattentive or untrained care staff

Certain medical conditions such as GERD (acid reflux disorder), celiac, enlarged thyroid, osteoarthritis, diverticulosis, and certain cancers can also make it difficult for some residents to eat safely or swallow medications.

Choking can also trigger other life-threatening complications and can cause further damage such as esophageal tears and aspiration pneumonia, infections, anxiety, PTSD, malnutrition, and dehydration.

These risk factors are known to nursing home administrators and staff, but eating restrictions are too often left unnoticed in resident care plans, or if documented, tired or overworked employees too easily neglect to follow them. And although they should be, some workers are simply not taking the time to notice swallowing difficulties or give it much thought due to heavy patient loads. If the staff responsible for administering meals to residents see problematic eating or drinking, documentation should be made, and the resident’s family, physician or facility nurse becomes aware.

Nursing Homes Must Provide Proper Care and Supervision

The nursing home abuse and neglect attorneys of Levin & Perconti have successfully handled many choking lawsuits against nursing homes, including a $1 million verdict for the family of a 67-year-old man who was fed foods that were strictly forbidden.

Consultations at Levin & Perconti are always free, confidential, and handled by one of our skilled attorneys. Click here to fill out an online request form or call us toll-free at 1-877-374-1417 or 312-332-2872.

Read also: How to Identify Symptoms of Anxiety in Nursing Home Residents