Personal Injury

Nursing home corporation faces manslaughter charges

No one disputes that 74-year-old Julia McCauley, a resident at Life Care Center of Acton in Massachusetts rolled her wheelchair outside the front door of the home where she had lived five years. She had done it on more than one occasion. But in August of 2004, her trip through the exit resulted in her tumbling down a flight of stairs. She died shortly after the fall.

Had McCauley been wearing the doctor-prescribed bracelet that would sound an alarm and lock the doors if she wandered too close to the home’s exit, perhaps her story wouldn’t have ended so tragically. Attorney General Martha Coakley believes the home was negligent by not ensuring that McCauley was wearing the bracelet.

The home’s parent company, Life Care Centers of America, headquartered in Tennessee, is charged with manslaughter neglect of a long-term care facility resident. Trial began this week in Middlesex Superior Court, according to the Wicked Local. The company faces up to $6,000 in fines if found liable.

Life Care operates more than 200 facilities in 28 states and has been in the spotlight for erroneous practices in the past. In 2005, the company shelled out $2.5 million to resolve a Medicaid/Medicare fraud case. In 2007, the company paid an additional $164,000 for deficiencies directly related to deficient resident care that put resident’s in harms way.

Meantime, the Massachusetts legislature is considering a change in law that would increase the maximum fine for a corporation convicted of manslaughter from $1,000 to $250,000. If the law is passed, it would not apply retrospectively to McCauley’s case.