Lawsuit Threats from Family Members - page 2

I am employed at an upscale nursing home and the care provided is very good. How do I constructively deal with family members who are threatening to sue the nursing home and its employees? It seems... Read More

  1. by   txspadequeenRN
    OP, Some families just amaze me. I have always said I am going to write a book about having your family member in the nursing home . This is going to be a cut to it , shut your pie hole reality check for alot of people... especially the people who think we are servants, maids and whatever else .... I have been a geri- nurse for long enough and been a supervisor the last 3 and a half years and heard complaints and threats everytime I walked in the door.. But the best one was the lady whose daughter was a chemist and she said her brother worked for the state. She would call her brother and file a complaint everytime the nebulizer her mother was on was in the same room as the trash can. She wanted the trash can out of the room because she said it would contaminate the neb machine. Now this is the kinda crap I had to deal with and after I stopped laughing I explained to her that the neb was cleaned regularly and placed up above and away from the trash can. Nope didnt matter she would place the trash can outside the door and I would move it for fear someone would trip on it and she would get mad cause she didnt have a trash can to put all HER trash in...... My point here is you can t win......so by-pass all the BS and just give them the phone book....lololololol




    Quote from zenman
    And if all the above doesn't work, ask them if they want to borrow the yellow pages.
  2. by   madwife2002
    Dont forget what ever happens

    Document Document and then document some more
  3. by   CaseManager1947
    I think to some degree the context in which these events have occurred/are occurring is what is missing. Has there been a sentinal event that has occurred that might merit litigation?? (Sexual act by staff to resident, resident suicidie, elopement when resident was seriously hurt). These are considered sentinal type events, and should trigger some sort of internal investigation by your corporate management, legal, and risk management. Often, if threats of suit are aired in my direction, I will notify my Director and Risk Manager department Head, who then may elect to discuss with counsel. Just know this: incident reports, your conversations with prinicipals in the matter, any notes u take, stash and store, and conversations with suzy belle, your BFF at the facility may be subpeonable (sp?,sorry). Document your direct knowledge of the situation in the record and in incident report or whatever mechanism you facility uses, and follow the lead of your legal team and leadership. One question--do you trust these folks???

    keep us posted.

    Morghan, ARNP
  4. by   LoriAlabamaRN
    Definitely keep your cool, answer politely, and it makes them look foolish for overreacting. I've heard the old "I've got a lawyer and I'm going to sue you" thing dozens of times, and have never had a single family membeer follow through with it. It's just part of the business.
  5. by   LeahJet
    I once heard that there were more law students than lawyers walking the face of the earth. Now this may be an urban legend, but I do know that the competition is hot out there. Just look at daytime TV ads.... every other commercial is about "getting what you deserve". Like society really needs help with that sense of entitlement.
  6. by   sanctuary
    As has been stated, documentation is critical. If they threaten to sue, and you document each and every time, some courts have held that they were looking for an excuse to sue, and throw the case out.
  7. by   TheCommuter
    Quote from CaseManager1947
    Has there been a sentinal event that has occurred that might merit litigation?? (Sexual act by staff to resident, resident suicidie, elopement when resident was seriously hurt).
    I work at an upscale facility that caters to the wealthy, and the complaints usually consist of "There's a pair of gloves in grandmother's trash can," or "No vegetables were served with father's dinner. I'm going to sue you guys for not providing nutritionally rounded meals."
  8. by   Medic/Nurse
    As detailed in earlier posts, if there is a true "situation", then get all the proper management notified and involved pronto.

    If, as I suspect, this is just good old fashioned "bullying" by the "entitled" over some perceived issue, let it be.
    It is hard to listen to, and believe me I hate to be threatened, but ... sometimes the best response here is ....OKAY or WELL. It acknowledges that you heard them, but don't get sucked into the vortex.

    I am always amazed at the patients/family that threaten to call their "lawyer" at 8 pm on a Friday. Assuming I've not committed a crime, or are in jail, or have won the lottery (just kidding) my lawyer would not be amused by a call on the weekend over some nonsense. If these folks even have a lawyer on retainer, which I do doubt at times. Anyway, don't let it get to you. I think there may have been a time in our society where that phrase was used with intent and deliberation. That is not the case now.
  9. by   Daytonite
    Quote from TheCommuter
    I am employed at an upscale nursing home and the care provided is very good. How do I constructively deal with family members who are threatening to sue the nursing home and its employees? It seems as if family members are becoming more 'empowered' as time passes. What immediate actions should be taken?

    My questions might be construed as goofy; however, I don't have much experience in this arena. Thanks in advance for any replies.
    Just smile and continue with whatever you are doing. Take a course in nursing and the law just to reassure yourself what people can and can't sue for. Read up on game playing. These people are trying to intimidate others in order to gain some power and respect. They're going about it the wrong way, but they may or may not realize that, so part of our job is to be aware of what they are trying to accomplish. I would also try to give people like this some extra attention because that is often what they are craving. If it turns out that this is not the case, just smile and move on.
  10. by   RN/MSN/JD
    Quote from TheCommuter
    I am employed at an upscale nursing home and the care provided is very good. How do I constructively deal with family members who are threatening to sue the nursing home and its employees? It seems as if family members are becoming more 'empowered' as time passes. What immediate actions should be taken?

    My questions might be construed as goofy; however, I don't have much experience in this arena. Thanks in advance for any replies.
    First, in order for someone to sue you he must have a cause of action. So if you have not been guilty of a tort (civil wrong) then any action to sue you would be dismissed if it in fact got filed. Personal injury suits are VERY risky and VERY expensive for lawyers, so generally they do not take the case unless there is a clear cause of action and recovery is likely.

    The fact that they are threatening is an indication that there is a perceived problem with the care. This should concern you. There is clearly some problem that needs to be addressed by the administration of your facility and/or you.

    The best thing you could do is refer them to your supervisor and see if you can all work together to find a solution. Giving some smart alec answer like, 'here's the phone book' does not foster the therapeutic relationship or good communication.

    Patient/family empowerment is a positive and not a negative and should be encouraged. When patients and families can work as a team with the staff of a facility there is a high degree of satisfaction and threats of this nature do not occur.

    Studies have shown that when there IS a cause of action, most people do not wish to engage in a lawsuit. They just want an apology.

    My suggestion is that you look at your practice and how you interact with your patients and families before you take such a defensive posture.
    Last edit by RN/MSN/JD on Sep 9, '06
  11. by   RN/MSN/JD
    Addendum: Your facility SHOULD have a patient advocate who can work with families and diffuse their complaints. If there is a patient advocate, that would also be a proper referral for this family.
  12. by   nightingale
    When I have been a Charge Nurse in LTC, I have tried to not give the statements more power then necessary. I address the remarks briefly. It may be a statement to intimidate or it may be a warning; who knows?


    When it has happened to my Staff, and they have alerted me before the family member has left, I apologize that they "feel that way", I offer to help, and tell them I will have a manager contact them.

    I am usually too busy to spend a whole lot of time on any one issue. Courtesy, being pleasant, listening to concerns and issues (of residents, family, and staff) is a skill that goes a long way in putting out fires before they get out of hand.
    Last edit by nightingale on Sep 9, '06
  13. by   Simplepleasures
    It is certainly the right of the family to sue if they feel they need to, its about time patients AND STAFF in LTC facilities became "empowered". Nurses should refer the family to the social worker and not address this at all, not our jobs.

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