Woman Injured by Blind Patient in Rehabilitation Facility

Joseph O'Neill

Written by
— Updated on September 28, 2017

Blindness This case takes place in Wisconsin and involves a patient at a rehabilitation facility who was run over by another patient with a large walker. Before the incident, the plaintiff had physical and cognitive disabilities – as well as a broken leg – and attended the defending facility for rehabilitation. On the day she sustained her additional injuries, the plaintiff was getting ready to leave the building following her pool therapy. She was walking by herself when another patient – who is legally blind – ran into her with a large push walker. As a result of the injuries she sustained in the collision, the plaintiff suffered from further complications related to her broken leg and is now limited to a wheelchair. The plaintiff’s position is that it is foreseeable that blind people can potentially pose a danger to other patients at the facility, and should be monitored to prevent any injuries. Therefore, the facility failed in its duty to ensure that its patients do not injure themselves or other patients.

Question(s) For Expert Witness

  • 1. Can you discuss your background in setting safety standards in a rehabilitation setting?
  • 2. Could this accident have been prevented?

Expert Witness Response E-008906

This was definitely an avoidable incident and there should be policies in place to prevent this from happening. We had a patient that was a fall risk at our facility whose wife would try to drop him off. We told them that due to our policies we would not accept him as a patient unless she stayed with him or if he had an aid. This is because alone, he was a danger to himself and others; just like the blind patient involved in this case was a danger to himself and other patients in the facility. The facility I work in (and others I’ve worked in) are similar in scope to the one described in this case overview. I spend a great deal of my professional time working on aquatic therapy treatment with our patients and have done so for many years. While beneficial, it is important to acknowledge all of the added risks associated with aquatic therapy and be certain to mitigate them so patients derive benefit and are not susceptible to an accident stemming from aquatic therapy. While the accident described is not one that may immediately come to mind with aquatic therapy (e.g., slipping while entering the pool), it is one that this facility should have been aware of.

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