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Nursing Home Fire Lawsuits

  • September 3, 2018
  • KBA Attorneys
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In March 2017, two people died and four people were hospitalized at an assisted living home caught fire in West Baltimore. The facility was owned and operated by Kozy Kottage, which was approved for eight beds. The home housed seven people, including one person with multiple sclerosis who needed assistance with basic tasks, such as getting dressed.

In July 2017, a fire at a senior living home in Virginia killed three people. The Chesapeake Fire Department arrived on the scene, but by then it was too late.

In November 2017, four people were killed in a Barclay Friends Senior Living Community when a fire broke out on the patio of the building. That fire was blamed on faulty sprinkler systems and smoke alarms. Families of the victims have filed lawsuits.

In August 2018, a fire at Elkton Transitional Care broke out, sending two residents and an employee to the hospital. The fire was caused by a problem with a wall-mounted air-conditioning unit according to the investigators. Singerly Volunteer Fire Company responded with 25 firefighters.

Nursing Home Fires

Fires in nursing homes and assisted living facilities are unfortunately too common. Across the country, numerous fires have happened resulting in several injuries and even fatalities. Nursing home fires can happen for a number of reasons, including:

• Poorly maintained building equipment, including fire alarms and sprinkler systems
• No evacuation plan
• Poor building design
• Failure to call 911 in a timely manner
• Negligent staffing
• Poor staff training
• Blocked exits

A 2004 GAO report found that cost was a barrier to Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services (CMS) requiring sprinklers for all older nursing homes, even though sprinklers are considered to be the single most effective fire protection feature. At the time of the report, there was never a multiple-death fire in a nursing home that had full sprinkler coverage. According to the GAO at the time, state and federal oversight of nursing home fire safety was lacking. The limited number of federal fire safety assessments, though inconsistent with the statutory requirement for federal oversight surveys, nonetheless demonstrate that state surveyors either miss or fail to cite all fire safety deficiencies. CMS provides limited oversight of state survey activities to address these fire safety survey concerns.

In 2012, the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services (CMS) adopted the Life Safety Code (LSC) by regulation published at 81 Fed. Reg. 26872 (May 4, 2016). The LSC is a set of fire protection requirements designed to provide a reasonable degree of safety from fire. It covers construction, protection, and operational features designed to provide safety from fire, smoke, and panic. The LSC is a publication of NFPA, which was founded in 1896 to promote the science and improve the methods of fire protection.

It is important for any attorney handling a nursing home fire case to be familiar with basic nursing home regulations found in 42 CFR 483, et seq., but also the LSC and NFPA fire safety requirements. To investigate the claim, a nursing home negligence attorney would begin by retaining building code and fire safety expert witnesses. Next, the attorney would ensure that any evidence relating to the fire was not lost. Such evidence could include video camera footage, physical evidence of the scene, building plans, and witness testimony.

If you or a loved one have been injured a nursing home fire, contact Reza Davani of KBA Attorneys.