Highland Health Care Center sued over resident's heart failure

Kelly Holleran Dec. 8, 2011, 4:31am

Two daughters of a recently deceased woman have filed suit against the nursing home that they claim neglected their mother, allegedly allowing her to die from congestive heart failure.

Charlotte Deutschmann and Sharon Wilken claim their mother, Helen C. Williams, was admitted to defendant Highland Health Care Center on Nov. 5, 2009, after she was diagnosed with a right hip fracture, a fractured right humerous, congestive heart failure, hypertension, non-insulin dependent diabetes, osteoarthritis, mood disorder and acute anemia.

On Feb. 24, 2010, Williams began complaining of shortness of breath, back pain and indigestion, according to the complaint filed Dec. 1 in Madison County Circuit Court. She continued her complaints the following morning, and employees at the nursing home gave her a nebulizer breathing treatment for her shortness of breath, the suit states. They also gave her an analgesic for her pain, the complaint says.

Still, Williams's pain continued, and she requested a chest x-ray, the plaintiffs allege. The nursing home employees did give Williams a chest x-ray, and later Dr. Michael Paley interpreted it to demonstrate mild to moderate pulmonary vascular congestion, according to the complaint.

After interpreting the results, Paley sent the x-ray to defendant Highland Health Care Center, the suit states. At about 10:30 p.m., a half-hour after they were sent, the nursing home discovered the x-ray results, the complaint says.

At 11:10 p.m. on Feb. 25, 2010, Williams became unresponsive and died from congestive heart failure, the plaintiffs allege.

They blame the nursing home for allowing their mother's death, saying its employees negligently failed to provide the services required by their mother, failed to provide properly supervised nursing staff to their mother and failed to ensure that all of the nursing staff monitored their mother, among other things.

Because of their mother's death, the plaintiffs lost her love, affection, society and companionship, according to the complaint.

In addition to Highland Health Care Center, the plaintiffs name its administrator, Arthur H. Knippel, as a defendant, saying he was responsible for the negligent management of the facility.

In their five-count complaint, the plaintiffs are seeking a judgment of more than $250,000, plus attorney's fees and costs.

They will be represented by Stephen C. Buser of the Law Office of Stephen C. Buser in Columbia.

Madison County Circuit Court case number: 11-L-1278.

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