The Supreme Court of Oklahoma recently released a decision granting a plaintiff’s request to prevent the enforcement of an order issued by the judge presiding over a wrongful death case. The initial order had denied the plaintiff’s request to amend their complaint and add additional defendants of whom the plaintiff was initially unaware. Although the state supreme court denied the plaintiff’s request to immediately force the trial judge to grant their motion to amend the complaint, the most recent ruling will result in further proceedings at the district court level to determine if the plaintiff is entitled to hold the additional parties responsible in the wrongful death case.
The Plaintiff’s Claim of Nursing Home Neglect and Wrongful Death
The plaintiff in the case of Maree v. Willow Park Health Care Center is the personal representative of the estate of a woman who died while she was a patient at a long-term nursing facility operated by the defendants. According to the facts discussed in the appellate opinion, the lawsuit alleges that the defendant negligently failed to respond to an assistance call made by the patient, resulting in her suffering injuries in a fall while she attempted to use the bathroom unassisted. The plaintiff’s claim further alleges that the defendants failed to adequately respond after the patient was injured, ultimately resulting in her death two days later. Based on the alleged negligence of the nursing home operators, the plaintiff filed a wrongful death lawsuit seeking damages from the defendant.
The Plaintiff’s Attempt to Pierce the Corporate Veil is Denied
After filing the wrongful death claim, the plaintiff became aware of additional parties who acted as owners/managers of the defendant nursing home corporation and sought to add them as defendants to the case. Although corporate owners and members cannot generally be held personally accountable for negligence committed by the corporation, the plaintiff argued that case discovery would find evidence that the additional defendants were personally involved in the daily operations of the nursing home and could be held personally accountable for their role in the patient’s death. After hearing argument on the plaintiff’s motion, the trial court ruled that the proposed defendants could not be added and denied the plaintiff’s request to conduct additional discovery on the defendants. The plaintiff appealed the ruling to the state supreme court and sought an order blocking the enforcement of the trial court’s order.
The Supreme Court Blocks Enforcement of the Trial Judge’s Ruling
On appeal, the state supreme court ruled that the trial judge committed an error when he issued the disputed order, and it blocked its enforcement. The high court held that the plaintiff presented a cognizable legal theory to hold the additional defendants responsible for their direct negligence, which if it were proven would justify a damages claim against them in spite of the corporate protections afforded to them by the structure of the principal corporate defendant. The appellate panel ordered the trial court to hold additional proceedings on the plaintiff’s motion, a ruling that may ultimately result in the plaintiff successfully obtaining compensation from the additional defendants through a settlement or trial.
Corporate Versus Personal Defendants in South Florida Negligence Cases
South Florida personal injury and wrongful death plaintiffs may have the ability to collect damages from corporate entities as well as the owners and members of those entities, depending on each potential party’s role in the events that resulted in the plaintiff’s claim. Service providers, nursing homes, transportation companies, and other organizations are often structured as corporations or limited liability companies to insulate the operators from liability for negligence claims. A skilled Miami wrongful death attorney may be able to pierce the corporate veil by using legal strategies to hold defendants accountable in their personal capacity while simultaneously pursuing a claim against the corporate entity. Plaintiffs generally have a better chance of collecting judgments against corporations when the owners and members are personally tied to the judgment.
Representation for Your Wrongful Death Claim
If a loved one or family member has died while receiving treatment at a South Florida nursing home, you may be entitled to damages if acts of negligence contributed to the death of your loved one. The aggressive South Florida wrongful death attorneys at Friedman, Rodman & Frank have the experience and skill to help you try to hold all of the responsible parties accountable for your loss. Contact us to discuss your case and find out if you might have a claim for damages. At Friedman, Rodman & Frank, we represent clients in the Miami area and throughout South Florida in nursing home neglect, wrongful death, and other negligence cases. Contact us to schedule a free consultation and case review. Call toll-free at 877-448-8585 or fill out our online form to schedule a time to discuss your case. Se habla Español / Nou Parlé Creole.
More Blog Posts:
Court Affirms Judgment for Defendant in Case Filed after Fatal Skateboarding Accident, South Florida Personal Injury Lawyers Blog, published June 30, 2016.
State Supreme Court Rules that Post-Mortem Misconduct by Doctor Is Medical Malpractice, Reverses Damages Award, South Florida Personal Injury Lawyers Blog, published June 13, 2016.