We are happy to report the successful resolution of two very important cases against a Roanoke assisted living facility. From January to March of 2005, five female residents of a Roanoke, Virginia assisted living facility became ill with Group A Strep (GAS). GAS is a bacterial infection which can cause necrotizing fasciitis, more commonly known as flesh-eating bacteria. Two of the infected residents died.
The resolution of the cases is important because of the defenses asserted by the assisted living facility. First, the facility argued it had done nothing wrong and that Group A Strep bacteria are commonplace in all environments. Second, the assisted living facility argued that it was not a skilled nursing home and did not provide, and was not required to provide, any medical care to its residents.
We responded to the first argument by agreeing that GAS is everywhere but when it is present in a population of elderly individuals with compromised health, the facility had the duty to notify the healthy residents of the presence of the GAS infection in the facility in order for the residents to seek medical care (antibiotics) to prevent the spread of the GAS infection. We responded to the second argument in much the same way, that any reasonable facility (schools, nursing homes, assisted living facilities, etc) had the obligation to inform its members of the presence a potentially life-threatening bacterial infection.