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Injury Law Alert - Spring 2010 Issue

Hemmings & Stevens, PLLC Law Firm of Raleigh, NC



Many of us are aware that seniors can face dangers in nursing homes. Residents can receive substandard medical care, be given the wrong medications, or simply be neglected. However, recent data show a rise in new and unexpected problems - assaults, rape, and even murder.

In 2000, there were 5,000 cases of patient-on-patient assaults in nursing homes; by 2003 (the most recent year for which statistics are available), this number had risen to 5,515. During the same period, the number of rapes increased by 51%.

There are a number of reasons for this increase in attacks on the elderly. As the population ages, nursing homes have become more crowded. More people suffer from dementia or mental illness, which sometimes can cause them to lash out violently. Some nursing homes house younger, mentally ill patients with older, defenseless elderly residents. Finally, some nursing home residents are criminals, elderly sex offenders, or murderers.

Usually, the person responsible for a criminal act is the criminal. However, in many cases, these assaults lead to civil suits against the nursing homes, based on the claim that the nursing home was negligent for not keeping a dangerous resident away from the victim or for not taking the time to determine which residents are potentially dangerous. The suits argue that a nursing home should be aware of these things and that it should take steps to protect residents from assaults once it knows that a particular person presents some kind of danger to others.

Nursing homes often point to health-care privacy laws and claim that these laws prevent them from issuing warnings about other residents. They also sometimes cite inconsistent state laws or claim that the costs of background checks and the like are too high for them to bear.

Advocates for the elderly are more likely to cite understaffing, incompetence, and an unwillingness to admit that there is a problem. Whatever the cause, individuals whose loved ones reside in nursing homes should be aware of the potential for violent assaults and should keep their eyes open and not be afraid to ask hard questions of the management and staff.


Approximately every 15 seconds, a house is robbed somewhere in America. A few simple precautions can make your home a less-inviting target and can convince burglars to try their luck elsewhere.

* Install deadbolt locks on all outside doors, and make sure that all windows (not just those on the ground floor) have good, strong locks;

* Keep your property well lit and consider installing outdoor lights hooked to motion sensors - thieves hate it when they can't hide;

* Keep trees and shrubbery cut back from windows so thieves do not have a place to hide;

* If you are leaving town for several days, suspend mail and newspaper delivery, and ask a trusted neighbor to keep an eye on your home;

* If you are not at home, keep a light on so the house looks occupied;

* Consider an alarm system monitored by a reputable security company;

* Keep a car parked in your driveway. Like lights, it makes the house look occupied and stops burglars from backing up a van and cleaning you out.

Finally, remember that even the best precautions do not work if you don't use them! So give your home a security checkup, keep those doors and windows locked, and beat burglars at their own game.


Having a colonoscopy can be unpleasant, but it may also be dangerous. Before such a procedure, doctors often ask patients to take oral sodium phosphate (OSP) to clean out the bowels. However, OSP (which is available over the counter) can be very dangerous.

According to the Food and Drug Administration (FDA), OSP has been linked to acute phosphate nephropathy (also known as nephrocalcinosis), a serious condition affecting the kidneys. In patients suffering from acute phosphate nephropathy, calcium-phosphate crystals are deposited in the renal tubes. The effect of this condition can be very serious: Patients may need dialysis, they may need a kidney transplant, or they may die from renal failure.

The problem often is not promptly diagnosed, because the symptoms of acute phosphate nephropathy can vary widely from victim to victim and include such common symptoms as nausea, headaches, drowsiness, pain, bleeding, dehydration, swelling (especially of the feet), and a general lethargy. Although acute phosphate nephropathy does seem to be more common in those over the age of 55 or in those already taking a medication that affects the kidneys, it can strike anyone.

The FDA has recently mandated that OSPs contain a so-called "boxed warning," which is a very serious step. If you or a loved one has used OSP and suffered a kidney injury, contact us. We may be able to help you receive compensation for your injuries.




We help injured persons seeking compensation for their injuries. We represent individuals and small businesses with insurance claims that have been denied or other contract disputes.  We DO NOT represent insurance companies or big business.


Hemmings & Stevens PLLC Law Firm Hemmings & Stevens PLLC
5613 Duraleigh Road
Suite 111
Raleigh, NC 27612
(919) 277-0161