By Taylor Knight

Ohio law sets forth strict limitations guidelines for the filing of all civil actions. In that regard, a personal injury action involving a “medical claim” must be filed within one year of the accrual date of the cause of action under R.C. 2305.113. Conversely, an action for personal injuries that is not a “medical claim” must be filed within two years of the accrual date of the cause of action.  Thus, whether a civil action is deemed to be a “medical claim” has a significant impact on the amount of time a potential claimant has to file a claim. 

As it relates to long-term care facilities, a “medical claim” is defined as “any claim that is asserted in any civil action against a *** home, or residential facility, against any employee or agent of a *** home, or residential facility *** and that arises out of the medical diagnosis, care, or treatment of any person.” See R.C. 2305.113(E)(1). Despite the fact that, by definition, a claim asserted against a long-term care facility arising out of the medical diagnosis, care or treatment of a resident is a medical claim, in Haskins v. 7112 Columbia, Inc., the Seventh District Court of Appeals became the latest Ohio district court to misinterpret R.C. 2305.113 by holding that a claim for personal injuries arising from an incident in a long-term care facility is not a medical claim. Haskins v. 7112 Columbia, Inc., 7th Dist. No. 13 MA 100, 2014-Ohio-4154.

In Haskins, the plaintiff’s mother was a resident of a long-term care facility.  At some point following her admission, she had become bedbound, was unable to walk independently and required constant daily care and monitoring.  Because of her condition, her bed linens had to be changed while she remained in her bed.  On July 29, 2011, when two of the facility’s employees attempted to change her bed linens, one of the sheets became lodged under her, and in attempting to move her and extract the sheet, her leg was broken.  She was taken to the hospital, where testing revealed she had suffered a fracture of her left femur.

On September 10, 2012, more than one year after the incident, the plaintiff filed a claim against the facility seeking to recover damages for his mother’s injuries. After filing an Answer, the facility sought the dismissal of the plaintiff’s claim on the grounds that it was a “medical claim” within the meaning of R.C. 2305.113 and the one-year statute of limitations expired prior to the filing of the plaintiff’s complaint.  The trial court held the claim was in fact a medical claim and had been filed after the expiration of the statute of limitations, thereby dismissing the plaintiff’s claim as untimely.  The plaintiff appealed on the basis that changing bed linens is not a medical procedure, but rather, a routine chore that did not require any particular professional skill; therefore, his claim was a general negligence claim, not a medical claim, and subject to the two-year statute of limitations.

The Seventh District reserved the dismissal, holding that while the defendant qualified as a “home” under R.C. 2305.113, the defendant’s employees were not providing “medical care” at the time of the incident; therefore, the claim was a general negligence claim subject to the two-year statute of limitations. Specifically, the court held that “while it is possible that changing bed linens had some medical purpose, there are also a variety of possible non-medical reasons that the sheets were changed” the day of the injury.  Further, the court noted the complaint did not indicate that the two employees changing the linens had any particular medical expertise or skill, nor did it indicate the plaintiff’s mother was involved with or being prepared for any medical treatment.

Significantly, the Haskins court's acceptance of the position that certain services performed by nurses’ aids in a long-term care facilities do not require any type of professional skill or training is a significant misinterpretation of Ohio law.  In that regard, the Ohio Revised Code and the Ohio Administrative Code set forth strict guidelines governing the provision of services to residents in long-term care facilities. See R.C. 3721 et seq.; OAC 3701-17. Specifically, long-term care facilities are required to employ qualified “nurses’ aids” to perform “nursing-related services”, which include activities such as attending to the personal care needs of residents and providing personal care services, i.e. assisting residents with bed mobility, locomotion and transfer, bathing, grooming, toileting, dressing, and eating. In order to constitute a qualified nurses’ aid, an individual must undergo a specified amount of training specific to providing care and treatment in a long-term care facility, including training on how to make an occupied bed, and successfully complete a state administered test with examination and performance demonstration components. See OAC 3701-17 et seq; OAC 3701-18 et seq. In this face of this regulatory landscape, the Haskins decision clearly reaches the wrong result. Quite simply, the act of changing the linens of a bedbound resident requires an amount of professional skill and care over and above that of the average individual.

If you find your facility in a situation where a claim has been made against it and the claimant is attempting to argue that it is a general negligence claim, not a medical claim, such as in Haskins, it is important to look to the regulations set forth in the Ohio Revised Code and the Ohio Administrative Code governing the functioning of long-term care facilities and education and training of the facilities’ employees to establish the services being provided do in fact fall within the definition of care and treatment under R.C. 2305.113.

If you have any questions regarding the Haskins v. 7112 Columbia, Inc. decision, would like a complete copy of the opinion, or have questions regarding Ohio law governing long-term care facilities, please contact a member of our Long-Term Care Practice Group.

This has been prepared for informational purposes only. It does not contain legal advice or legal opinion and should not be relied upon for individual situations. Nothing herein creates an attorney-client relationship between the Reader and Reminger. The information in this document is subject to change and the Reader should not rely on the statements in this document without first consulting legal counsel. 


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