Alaska Supreme Court Upholds $14M Award against Home Care Agency That Discharged Client

November 15, 2019 | Aging Services Risk, Quality, & Safety Guidance

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In a case brought by a ventilator-dependent home care client against the home care agency that discharged him, the Supreme Court of Alaska has upheld a trial court award of $13.8 million in damages. The agency allegedly discharged the client for compliance reasons but did so improperly, and he had no other nearby options for care. However, the court reversed the $5.7 million award of attorney's fees to the plaintiff and remanded the case for recalculation of those fees.

The plaintiff was 21 years old and living with his family in Anchorage when he was injured in a bicycle accident. The accident permanently paralyzed him from the neck down and made him dependent on a ventilator to breathe. He decided to stay in the area to be close to family and friends. Because area long-term care facilities could not serve ventilator-dependent individuals, in December 2009 he contracted for home care through the agency. His contract stated that he had a right to "know that the home health plan of care/treatment will be developed by the physician, in cooperation with the appropriate agency professional staff member, and with the patient and family to the extent possible." It also said he had the right not to be transferred except in certain listed circumstances. In addition, the agency's policies and procedures said...

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