Attorneys William J. Mundy and Nicholas F. Ciccone obtained a defense verdict on behalf of a local municipality, that municipality’s skilled nursing facility, the facility’s administrator, and the facility’s medical director (collectively, “Defendants”) in a civil rights action based upon a §1983 failure to train theory of liability in the United States District Court for the Eastern District of Pennsylvania brought by the estate of a former resident (“Plaintiff”). Additionally, during the course of trial, Attorneys Mundy and Ciccone secured the dismissal of the facility’s Director of Nursing and one of the facility’s Unit Managers, who were both individually named as defendants.
Plaintiff, at age 90, was admitted to Defendants’ nearly 900-bed county-owned/operated skilled nursing facility with a myriad of co-morbidities, namely dementia and peripheral vascular disease (‘PVD”), in January 2014. After 10 months of care and treatment, several toes on Plaintiff’s right foot became ischemic as a result of progressive PVD, which led to an above-the-knee amputation. All medical personnel involved with Plaintiff’s care, both from Defendants’ facility and from third-party providers, agreed that the amputation was a result of Plaintiff’s disease process. Regardless, following the amputation, Plaintiff returned to the facility and remained for another 14 months without any complications other than the development of a sacral wound deemed unavoidable that healed after a short period.
While still a resident at Defendants’ facility, Plaintiff brought suit against Defendants alleging multiple theories, including tort-based negligence claims. After a protracted procedural course, including a series of motions to dismiss by Defendants, orders granting those motions, an improper attempt to amend the pleadings, and an appeal to the Third Circuit Court of Appeals, the case was remanded to the trial court on a narrow theory of liability – failure to train under §1983.
In this regard, Defendants’ facility is unique in that, not only does it have its own staff development department that conducts staff orientation, in-servicing, educations, and nurse trainings, Fair Acres has its own school accredited by the Pennsylvania Department of Education that teaches its students to become certified nursing assistants. Defendants position was clear – they provide abundantly more staff training than most.
Nevertheless, in order to prove liability against the Defendants, Plaintiff was required to establish that:
- Defendants had a specific policy or custom to not train its employees, that, when followed, violated a federally protected right of Plaintiff
- “official policymakers” were behind this policy/custom and allowed it to continue
- continually adhering to such a policy/custom was “deliberately indifferent” to the rights of the residents
- the specific deliberate indifference directly caused harm to the Plaintiff
Trial was ordered before the Honorable Eduardo C. Robreno, which began on September 25, 2019. After 8 days of evidence and testimony, the case was submitted to the jury, who found in favor of Defendants on the first question presented to them – that there was no violation of Plaintiff’s federally protected rights.