Resident dies after falling down cement steps in her wheelchair

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Recent Cases: Nursing Home

May/June 2012, Volume 27, No. 3

Resident dies after falling down cement steps in her wheelchair 

Nunziata v. Trans Health Mgt., Inc., No. 05-8540CI (Fla., Pinellas Co. Cir. Jan. 11, 2012).

Elvira Nunziata, a 92-year-old woman who suffered from dementia, lived at the Pinellas Park Care and Rehabilitation Center. Despite her use of a wheelchair, Nunziata had a tendency to wander, a fact that was known to the Pinellas Park staff.

While belted into her wheelchair, she opened an unlocked exit door leading to a stairwell and fell down 10 cement steps. A maintenance worker found Nunziata in a pool of blood about an hour later.

Nunziata subsequently died of the injuries she sustained in the fall. She is survived by her adult son.

The son, on behalf of Nunziata’s estate, sued Trans Health Management, Inc.—the nursing home management company and operator—and its putative corporate parent, alleging that the home failed to fix a malfunctioning lock on the exit door. Additionally, suit claimed that the home was chronically short staffed and failed to provide adequate care to Nunziata, who suffered numerous falls and unexplained injuries while living at the home.

The putative parent company went into receivership during the litigation. The jury awarded a $200 million default judgment against the management company and operator.

Plaintiff Counsel

Bennie Lazzara Jr.,
Isaac R. Ruiz-Carus, and
Joseph H. Ficarrotta, all of Tampa


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