Nursing home settles case of resident hit, killed by food cart
*Editor's Note: This story has been updated to reflect the information provided by defense attorney Tom M. Allen. The article originally stated that the jury award was $800,000. This includes attorney's fees, which Allen says are “highly disputed.”
A California long-term care facility has agreed to settle a wrongful death case involving a resident who was struck by a dining cart, local news sources reported Monday.
Margaret Kasper was a resident at the Vista Healthcare Center in the San Diego area in 2010, when she was hit by a large dining cart and sustained a broken hip, according to local ABC affiliate KGTV. The 94-year-old died five days later, after undergoing surgery.
Kasper's family then sued the facility, claiming that only one person had been moving the cart, when it required someone at both ends. It reportedly was 70 inches high and 32 inches wide.
At a trial earlier this year, a former Vista receptionist said that only one person routinely pushed the cart, and a special code was broadcast over the intercom whenever a health inspector arrived on the premises, KGTV reported. The code — “Simon line nine” — was a signal that a second person should start helping with the cart, the receptionist testified.
The receptionist based her testimony about the code on a “single comment” supposedly made by the facility's director of nursing, Vista attorney Tom M. Allen told McKnight's. The DON “expressly denied” that the facility was engaged in the practice described by the receptionist, according to Allen, a partner at Lewis, Brisbois, Bisgaard & Smith LLP.
"There is no standard requiring two persons to transport a cart. The industry standard is one person, as Vista did it before the accident," Allen wrote in an email to McKnight's. He added that experts with "150 years of collective experience" testified, and none had seen an instance of an accident caused by having one person pushing a cart.
A jury awarded Kasper's family $135,000.* The facility then appealed and entered into an undisclosed settlement in late October, according to KGTV.
Plaintiffs' attorneys had not responded to a phone call from McKnight's as of press time.