Long-term care liability for pressure ulcers

Anne Coble Voss, Stacy A. Bender, Maree L. Ferguson, Abby C. Sauer, Richard G. Bennett, Peter W. Hahn

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

37 Scopus citations


More than 20% of residents who have been in long-term care (LTC) facilities for 2 or more years will develop at least one pressure ulcer (PU). Residents suffer pain, disfigurement, and decreased quality of life, and their risk of illness and death increases. LTC facilities face censure from residents, their families, and surveyors and the threat of expensive lawsuits. Lawsuits are typically based on contentions of residents with a PU-or their advocates-that the LTC facility was negligent and failed to provide the care that, by industry standards, it must provide to prevent or manage such wounds (managing pressure, incontinence, and nutrition). In this article, data from 1999 and 2002 are presented, showing that lawsuits related to PUs are increasingly common and costly for LTC owners and care providers. Residents realized some type of recovery against the facility in 87% of the cases (verdicts for the resident plus settlements) and were awarded amounts as high as $312 million in damages. Even LTC administrators who believe that care in their facility equals or exceeds industry standards often settle lawsuits out of court to avoid jury verdicts. The data also show that jury awards were highest for PUs caused by multiple factors and that the highest awards for PUs caused by a single factor were seen when that factor was inadequate nutrition. LTC providers can help improve the health and quality of life of their residents, improve survey results, and minimize their risk of expensive lawsuits by developing, implementing, and documenting a plan of basic measures to prevent PUs.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)1587-1592
Number of pages6
JournalJournal of the American Geriatrics Society
Issue number9
StatePublished - Sep 1 2005


  • Lawsuits
  • Liability
  • Long-term care
  • Nursing homes
  • Older people
  • Pressure ulcers

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Geriatrics and Gerontology


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