LEGAL BEAT: Patient Sues Hospital For Injuries Suffered While Trying To Close Window Blinds

LEGAL BEAT: Patient Sues Hospital For Injuries Suffered While Trying To Close Window Blinds

In August 1997, 59-year-old Mrs. Lichti was a patient at Schumpert Medical Center in Shreveport, LA, for the treatment of bronchitis and back pain.

When she first entered her hospital room, Lichti called the nurses' station to ask for a maintenance man to fix the television and the window blinds. In response, two maintenance men came to Lichti's room, removed the television set and told her they would bring a replacement. The workers also examined the blinds, but informed Lichti they could not fix them. Neither indicated what, if anything, they planned to do about the blinds.

After the workers left the room, Lichti again called the nurses' station to ask them to "fix the window" because the sun was shining through it. She wanted the window blinds fixed because of her reaction to light, which was "unpleasant" to her whenever she felt pain. And she was experiencing pain at that time.

Lichti said that she continued to wait, but no one came to fix the blinds. She recalled an aide coming to her room to give her some water, and she asked the aide to please have someone come "to fix this window."

Lichti eventually decided to try to close the blinds herself.

When she got out of bed to close the blinds, she was wearing a pair of slacks, a blouse and sandals with rubber soles. She said that she was alert and oriented, was not dizzy, and that none of the medications she might have taken that morning would have had an adverse effect on her balance or her ability to walk. There was a recliner chair in her room that had lockable wheels.

Lichti unlocked the wheels on the chair, pushed the chair to the window, locked the wheels, got up in the chair and attempted to run her fingernails as high as she could in order to turn the slats of the blinds in the opposite direction to block the glare. Then she fell and sustained an injury to her left shoulder, her upper back and the cervical area of her spine. She could not remember whether or not the recliner opened at the time she fell.

Lichti then sued Schumpert Medical Center for the injuries she suffered. When the trial court dismissed her case, Lichti appealed to the Court of Appeal of Louisiana, Second Circuit. The appeals court overturned the trial court decision and sent the case back for further proceedings:

Here, in part, is what the appeals court said: "It is not unforeseeable that a patient experiencing discomfort due to bright light entering the room, and who has obtained no relief through repeated requests for aid, might decide to take matters into her own hands and attempt to close the broken blinds. Furthermore, because the top of the blinds is located above the easy reach of the average person, it is not unforeseeable that the patient would attempt to use a chair to reach the top of the blinds."

Source: Lichti v. Schumpert Medical Center, 2000 La. App. LEXIS 61 (Court of Appeal of Louisiana, Second Circuit) (Jan. 26,2000)

Edited by Rick Dana Barlow


Published as an ongoing series by VerticalNet, Inc. and Ornel, Inc©. Ornel Inc., (www.ornel.com) producers of CourtCases.net (www.courtcases.net).

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