Demas Law Group: Mushroom Poisoning Cases Deaths

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John Demas, of the Demas Law Group, discusses the recent deaths of two people in an assisted living facility from mushroom poisonings, and the implications for caregiver liability, as well as the problems involved in public notification of such dangers.

Demas Law Group: Mushroom Poisoning Cases Deaths

Everyone knows it is not easy to care for those who are infirm or elderly. However, by taking on that job, the workers at such a facility pledge to protect and nurture those residents.

Two residents died in a Northern California assisted living facility and four others were hospitalized following the consumption of wild mushrooms apparently picked by one of the caregivers on the facility’s property. As early as October of 2009, the California Department of Public Health had issued warnings about the dangers of eating wild mushrooms due to the large number of illnesses and deaths associated with mushroom poisoning.

There are more than 1,700 reported cases of mushroom poisoning each year. At least 10 of these cases are classified as serious and at least two deaths are recorded each year. In this most recent incident, a 73-year-old and 86-year-old victim both died after eating soup prepared by one of the facility’s caregivers. The caregiver was among the six people impacted by the poisoning, and authorities have determined there was no foul play involved. The facility is now under investigation. One prior citation against the assisted-living home earlier in the year was cleared after the facility adjusted its hot water temperature from what the investigating agency considered to be dangerous levels of over 130 degrees Fahrenheit. No other citations are on record for the facility.

Sacramento Injury Attorney John Demas notes, “Nursing homes and assisted-living facilities have a legal duty to protect their residents and create a safe and healthy environment in which they can live. It is very important for facilities such as this one to monitor not only their residents’ physical and emotional health but to carefully screen everyone who works at the facility, ensure that they have the best interests of the residents in mind at all times.”

“Everyone knows it is not easy to care for those who are infirm or elderly. However, by taking on that job, the workers at such a facility pledge to protect and nurture those residents. When they do not, it can be cause for a civil action against not only the individual involved but the facility as well.”

“This case highlights a very important legal concept, that of agency liability. Agency liability simply means that an organization, such as an elderly care facility, shares in the liability of its workers if one of them does something that injures a resident. In this case, the worker ignored the three-year-old warnings issued by the state on the dangers of picking mushrooms. Whether that action was intended to hurt others or not, the liability of the individual and the residential facility is undeniable.”

About John Demas and Demas Law Group, P.C.: John Demas is a personal injury attorney in Sacramento who handles cases of elder abuse and neglect as well as other personal injury issues such as vehicle accidents, slip-and-fall cases, dog bites, and product liability cases.

Attributes: CBS News, “Wild mushroom warnings fail to prevent deaths in Calif.,” November 12, 2012.

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Sylvia Zawadzka
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