Is a nursing home able to blame nurses for falls when there is inadequate staffing?
Dear Nancy replies:
When a patient is injured and a lawsuit follows, everyone tries to point the finger of blame to the other defendants named in the suit. In this situation, it is assumed the defendants would be the nursing home, staff nurses involved with the patient at the time of the fall and others. However, one can never shift the blame of their own actions or inactions to another.
In the scenario you present in your question, there are separate duties the nursing home itself and the nursing staff have toward the nursing home resident. The nursing home has a duty to be certain adequate numbers of staff and competent staff are present at all times. If it does not, and a patient is injured directly as a result of short-staffing and/or incompetent staff, it will be held responsible under the theory of corporate liability.
If the nursing staff member or members were negligent in their duties to the resident when the fall occurred (e.g., side rails down, resident left alone in the bathroom), they too can be held responsible for the resident’s injury under the professional negligence theory.
In professional negligence lawsuits, there is rarely just one defendant. The jury’s job, after hearing all of the evidence presented and their instructions given by the judge, is to determine who is responsible for this particular injury. Liability may rest with just one of the defendants, be shared with other defendants, and/or others might be found not to be negligent at all.