Posted On: December 29, 2008 by Schuler, Halvorson, Weisser & Zoeller

Patient Wanders Away From Nursing Home in Boca Raton, Florida and Drowns

Negligence and abuse in nursing home cases is a shocking reality for thousands of older Americans, and the ultimate result is often serious and even life-threatening problems for nursing home residents.

It was a very hard decision for this wife of 27 years to have to place her husband in a nursing home, but he had started wandering away from home and at the age of 76, she felt she was unable to keep an eye on him and keep him safe from harm. So, she did the only thing she felt she could do, but she was a frequent companion to her husband while he was in the rehabilitation center and he was the light of her life. Their conversations and time together were one of her reasons for living.

An investigation into this case indicated that the nursing home consistently failed to provide adequate protective and supportive services for this elderly gentleman, and the nursing home knew that it’s facility was in disrepair to the extent that the sliding glass door in this patient’s room was broken and off track and allowed it to remain in the open position, in fact, it could not be closed. The nursing home failed to fix this problem although it had more than six (6) months’ notice of the disrepair.

The nursing home staff was fully aware that this patient was suffering from dementia, a condition which creates confusion and disorientation and was aware that he had previously left the facility, undetected, and wandered about outside the premises without the knowledge of the nursing home staff until found. In fact, the nursing home staff had previously called the patient’s wife thinking that he was at home when, in fact, they had completely lost track of him and didn’t know where he was.

The nursing home claimed to have wrist bracelets which, if used, would have electronically alerted its staff that the patient had left the facility. Unfortunately, despite the facility’s knowledge of this patient’s dementia condition, it did not see fit to use such a wrist bracelet with him and therefore disregarded its own safety device, which was available, under the very conditions it was designed for.


On many occasions it was noted in the facility’s nursing notes that the patient had left the facility and crossed a busy highway to purchase cigarettes at the “Stop n’ Go” across the street. On another occasion the nursing notes stated that the patient was seen looking in the door of the facility and knocking/signaling to open the door because the supervisor had locked the door at 8:30 p.m. and he was unable to get back in at 9:00 p.m.

Sadly, a few months later on a cold December evening, this patient wandered away from the nursing home and ultimately fell into a pond and drowned. Apparently he walked out of the facility sometime between 9:00 p.m. and 10:00 p.m. that evening and was not found until approximately 7:00 a.m. the next morning. He was face down in the pond and without his glasses.

Since his death, this man’s widow has been in extreme depression and cries every day. She cannot understand how a nursing home such as this could ignore her husband to the extent that he could be overlooked and lost without any safeguards for his own protection. She knows he was afraid of water and she still has nightmares about his falling in the pond, in the dark, and how the shock and fear as well as his disorientation must have made the last moments of his life a horror.

Ultimately, after several weeks of trial and many months of appeals handled by Richard D. Schuler, the widow was finally awarded a sum in excess of $7 million, with $4.5 million of this amount being awarded as punitive damages. This means that the jury found through the evidence that this nursing home willfully, wantonly and recklessly disregarded the safety of this patient, and the jury was trying to make a statement so that hopefully, other nursing homes would pay attention and realize this negligence would not be tolerated.