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$2M Settlement for Home Healthcare Providers’ Failure to Ensure Smoking Safety Precaution

Attorneys John M. Dodig and Jason A. Daria secured a $2 million settlement for a patient with partial paralysis who suffered burn injuries to 40 percent of her body due to the failure of home healthcare providers to ensure smoking safety precautions.

Dodig and Daria represented a woman diagnosed with dementia who suffered a stroke that left her with paralysis to her upper and lower extremities. During a stay that exceeded three years at a long-term care/nursing home facility she received smoking assessments to evaluate her ability to hold matches and cigarettes, extinguish smoking materials, and communicate her needs and demonstrate safety awareness. Prior to her accident, her most recent plan of care from 2017 required that she wear a smoking apron, be accompanied and watched by a staff member, and that cigarettes/lighters be locked in the medical cart.

In May 2017, the woman obtained housing through the Philadelphia Housing Authority for disabled persons. Due to her partial paralysis, she required home healthcare services.

Despite the requirements under the most recent plan of care, the home healthcare provider and its nurses and staff did not perform smoking assessments and did not implement safety precautions to prevent smoking/burn injuries. Among other things, they did not use fire retardant bedding or clothing and did not lock-up and prevent access to matches and cigarettes.

In July 2018, the woman had access to and was lighting a cigarette when she dropped the cigarette or match on her bed causing her clothing and bed to catch on fire. She was trapped in her burning bed due to her mobility issues and suffered serious, permanent, and painful burn injuries to an estimated 40 percent of her total body surface.

The defense raised a vigorous comparative negligence defense, arguing that the victim was responsible for her injuries.