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Myers v. Heritage Enters., Inc.

    Brief Fact Summary.

    Prillmayer lived in a nursing home owned by Defendant. While at the home, two certified nurses tried to transfer Prillmayer from her wheelchair to a bed. However, in the process of the transfer, Prillmayer fell. Two weeks later, Prillmayer died. Plaintiff, executor of Prillmayer’s estate, brought suit against Defendant. The jury found in Defendant’s favor, and Plaintiff appealed.

    Synopsis of Rule of Law.

    An ordinary negligence standard applies when a negligence cause of action is brought pursuant to a statute that mandates liability for care that is not “adequate.”

    Facts.

    Mary Prillmayer lived in a nursing home owned and run by Heritage Enterprises, Inc., Defendant. In August 2000, two certified nurse’s aides (“CNAs”) tried to transfer Prillmayer from a wheelchair to a bed by using a device, the “Hoyer lift”. As the CAN’s were trying to do so, Prillmayer fell and fractured both of her legs. Two weeks later, Prillmayer died, allegedly from causes unrelated to her fall. The executor of Prillmayer’s estate, Michael Myers, Plaintiff, brought suit against Defendant under a state statute, which imposed liability upon nursing-home facilities for any injury to residents that was the result of a “failure ….to provide adequate physical or personal care or maintenance.” At trial, the parties introduced conflicting evidence. Defendant’s case was founded on an expert witness who testified about the standard of care in using the Hoyer lift. On the last day of trial, at a jury, Plaintiff proposed that instructions on ordinary negligence be given to define the standard of care to be what a reasonably careful person would have done under the circumstances. Nonetheless, despite Plaintiff’s objection, the court chose to give Defendant’s proposed instructions on professional negligence, which states that the CNAs were professionally negligent if they failed to use the knowledge, skill, and care used by reasonably competent CNAs in similar circumstances. The instructions further provided that this determination could only be made by evaluating the expert witness’ testimony, not by relying on personal knowledge. Thereafter, the jury found for Defendant. Plaintiff appealed.

    Issue.

    Whether an ordinary negligence standard applies when a negligence cause of action is brought pursuant to a statute that mandates liability for care that is not “adequate.”

    Held.

    Yes, an ordinary negligence standard applies when a negligence cause of action is brought pursuant to a statute that mandates liability for care that is not “adequate.”

    Discussion.

    The trial court improperly refused to instruct the jury to apply the ordinary negligence standard. In this case, Plaintiff brought a claim under an Illinois statute that creates liability to nursing-home facilities for any injury to a resident that is caused by the negligent employee’s conduct. Such conduct is defined as the “failure … to provide adequate medical or personal care or maintenance.” Further, the term “adequate care” is deemed to be the same as “ordinary care” or “reasonable care.” The plain language of the statute indicates that the applicable standard of care in this case is the ordinary negligence. Additionally, CNA’s should not be deemed to be professionals because CAN’s are not required to complete high school. Instead, the CNA’s tasks are mainly to assist in bathing, dressing, and moving patients. Overall, the trial court’s judgment is reversed, and the matter is remanded for a new trial.


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