A federal judge of the U.S. District Court for the Western District of Pennsylvania recently granted the Pavilion at Bradford Regional Medical Center summary judgment, dismissing Plaintiff George R. MacFarlane’s lawsuit stemming from sexually inappropriate touching that occurred while he was a resident at the facility.
At the time of the incident, Plaintiff was an 87-year-old man suffering from dementia and had no short-term memory. One night, a Certified Nursing Assistant on duty walked into Plaintiff’s room after hearing some commotion, and witnessed Plaintiff’s roommate touching Plaintiff’s genital area. When questioned immediately afterwards by both staff and the police as to whether he was okay, Plaintiff did not recall the incident or have any idea that something had happened. He did not have any signs of physical injury.
Plaintiff, in his own right and through his power of attorney, filed a lawsuit against the facility alleging professional negligence. The facility filed a motion for summary judgment seeking to dismiss the case, arguing that Plaintiff did not suffer an injury from the incident, and thus cannot prove casually related harm.
District Judge Susan Paradise Baxter found that the record showed no evidence of physical harm and dismissed the case. The record was clear that Plaintiff did not experience immediate or long-term harm or trauma, as he lacked any recollection whatsoever of what had happened. The Court found that there is no evidence to support a finding that Plaintiff suffered an injury casually related to the facility’s alleged negligence in allowing the incident to occur. The Court also noted that what happened was “deplorable and heart-wrenching” but that summary judgment was appropriate “to avoid the prospect of sympathetic jurors conjuring up injuries and damages that are not legally sustainable.”
A full copy of the Court’s opinion can be found here: https://law.justia.com/cases/federal/district-courts/pennsylvania/pawdce/1:2017cv00012/235566/60/
Danielle Dietrich assists long term care facilities with their legal needs. She is licensed to practice law in Pennsylvania, Ohio and West Virginia. Danielle can be reached via email, telephone: 412-594-5605 or on Twitter at @DLDietrich.