No Fall Precautions in ER Resulting in Subarachnoid Hemorrhage and Death
The Grifton Case
In this case, we represented the Estate of Mrs. Frances Grifton, age 84, who died due to complications of blunt force trauma to the head following a fall she sustained during an ER visit.
On December 29 at 4:40 pm, Mrs. Grifton was taken to an ER via ambulance for flu-like symptoms and “weakness”. Mrs. Grifton’s son and daughter-in-law followed the ambulance to the ER. In the ER records, it is noted that Mrs. Grifton was “unable to ambulate”, had an “impaired gait”, was “disoriented”, was “weak”, had “imbalance”, and was “ill-appearing”. It was further noted, “84 year old female complains of generalized weakness. Patient states she feels clumsy and has had trouble walking x3.”
Mrs. Grifton was diagnosed with influenza and was told that she would be kept overnight, but was waiting for an inpatient bed to become available. Around 9:30 pm, her son and daughter-in-law left for the night.
No fall precautions were taken. Moreover, Mrs. Grifton was left alone in her ER room with no visibility for anyone to keep an eye on her.
Around 10:30 pm, Mrs. Grifton’s niece came to visit her. Tragically, the niece found Mrs. Grifton on the floor of her ER room soiled and lying in a large pool of blood with a large laceration on her head. No one knew how long Mrs. Grifton was laying there.
Following testing, Mrs. Grifton was air-lifted to a tertiary hospital due to swelling on her brain and decreased responsiveness. At the tertiary hospital, she was admitted to the ICU. Over the next several days, Mrs. Grifton’s neurological condition deteriorated until she died on January 4.
An autopsy was performed. The pathologist concluded that the cause of death was “blunt force trauma to the head, neck and trunk. ” Specifically, the pathologist found that Mrs. Grifton had a right frontal lobe intraparenchymal hemorrhage, 8x5x3 cm extending to right ventricle with right to left midline shift; a right subarachnoid hemorrhage 3x3 cm; a coup injury; a left cerebellar subarachnoid hemorrhage 2.5x1.5 cm with contracoup injury; a sutured laceration and contusion of the right forehead; and contusions of the chest wall. It was also found that Mrs. Grifton fractured her right clavicle and C7 vertebra during the fall.
Prior to visiting the ER, Mrs. Grifton lived independently and was extremely healthy. In fact, the ER records note, “Patient does not have an extensive medical history, she does not see a doctor regularly” (at the time of her death, Mrs. Grifton was only taking vitamins for her eyes; no other prescription medications; the only medication that Mrs. Grifton took was Tylenol). She was independent of all activities of daily living. She drove herself on errands, she took immense pride in her immaculate yard, was an avid gardener, etc. Interestingly, Mrs. Grifton was well-known in the neighborhood for mowing her one acre lawn herself by push-mower. She was a staple in the community and worked at a local restaurant for over 25 years.
After obtaining the medical records, on behalf of Mrs. Grifton’s family, we wrote a demand letter to the hospital’s risk manager to determine if the hospital was interested in settling before suit was filed. In response, the insurance adjuster from the hospital’s insurance company, who is very familiar with our lawyers, contacted our firm. Within days, the case settled for a substantial amount.