End-of-Life Choice, Palliative Care and Counseling

Nebraska Supreme Court to Hear Tolliver Appeal in Early Februaryby Sonja

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The Nebraska Supreme Court transferred an appeal for Tolliver v. Hospice House from the lower Court of Appeals docket in order to examine the case itself, and will hear arguments the week of February 3, 2009.

Nebraska trial lawyer Dave Domina and Compassion & Choices Legal Director Kathryn Tucker represent the family of Frances Tolliver, a Nebraska woman who suffered a terrible death at an Omaha care facility in 2004, which misleadingly held itself out as providing hospice services. The facility did not provide hospice care.

Last spring, an Omaha jury found defendant “Hospice House” negligent for failing to adequately treat the terminally ill woman’s pain; However, the court dismissed the cause of action for damages caused by the misrepresentation about the kind of services provided by the defendant nursing facility, and the verdict on the remaining claim was so low the family decided to appeal.

The Tolliver case urges the Court to adopt new law in Nebraska governing damages for misrepresentation when personal injury or emotional distress occurs, as happened here.

The Tolliver case should be a wake-up call to care facilities nationwide on the importance of providing appropriate and adequate end-of-life care, and not to mislead prospective residents about the level of care available in a facility. Those facilities claiming to provide hospice care must accurately represent themselves or be held accountable when misrepresentation causes suffering.