Nursing Home • Corporate Liability • Sufficiency of Pleading • Constructive Notice

Ezrin v. Hospice Preferred Choice Inc. et al, PICS Case No. 17-1382 (C.P. Lackawanna Sept. 5, 2017) Nealon, J. (11 pages).

Plaintiff sufficiently alleged the actual or constructive knowledge element of a corporate negligence claim where he alleged that the defendant nursing home failed to adequately supervise its actual and ostensible agents and neglected to implement and enforce procedures to ensure the safety and care of its residents. The court overruled the defendants’ preliminary objection.

Plaintiff is the administrator of the estate of Sidney Ezrin, who suffered from dementia of the Alzheimer’s type and was admitted to Abington Manor. While under the care of Abington Manor, Ezrin suffered a severe, large skin tear to his right arm. Nursing home representatives allegedly concealed the origin of the tear. When family members visited Ezrin on Dec. 29, 2014, they saw a severe ecchymosis under his left eye and later determined that the ecchymosis was caused by a blow to the face. Plaintiff filed suit against Abington Manor and related parties, alleging that defendants deliberately concealed the circumstances of Ezrin’s facial injury. After suffering the injuries to his arm and face, Ezrin’s overall state rapidly declined and he died on Jan. 27, 2015. The suit alleged that Ezrin’s death was caused by the recklessness and negligence of Abington Manor’s actual or ostensible agents. Plaintiff also asserted a corporate negligence claim against Abington Manor, which allegedly owed Ezrin the nondelegable duties to select, train and retain only competent staff, to oversee and supervise all persons who practice medicine, nursing, rehabilitation and therapy at the facility and to formulate, implement, update and enforce policies and procedure to ensure all residents receive quality care. Abington Manor filed a preliminary objection seeking to strike the corporate liability claim on the ground of insufficient factual specificity. The court noted that in Thompson v. Nason Hospital, 591 A.2d 703 (Pa. 1991), the high court adopted as a theory of hospital liability the doctrine of corporate negligence or corporate liability under which a hospital is liable if it fails to uphold the proper standard of care owed to patients. The theory of corporate negligence has been extended to health maintenance organizations that do not practice medicine but involve themselves daily in decisions affecting their subscriber’s medical care. While Pennsylvania is a fact-pleading state, the complaint need not cite evidence but only those facts necessary for the defendant to prepare a defense. The court examined all plaintiff’s allegations in their entirety, rather than in isolation, and found them sufficient to provide Abington Manor with adequate notice of the corporate negligence claim to be defended. Abington Manor claimed that plaintiff had not sufficiently plead facts to demonstrate actual or constructive knowledge of the alleged defects as they pertained to Ezrin. The court noted, however, that a health-care facility may be chargeable with the requisite notice if its failure to receive actual notice is attributable to its lack of proper supervision or if the potentially dangerous practice or procedure could have been discovered but for the institution’s lack of proper monitoring and enforcement of policies. Plaintiff sufficiently alleged the actual or constructive knowledge element of a corporate negligence claim where it alleged that Abington Manor failed to adequately supervise its actual and ostensible agents and further neglected to implement and enforce procedures, the court concluded.