Ronald N. Lebovits is a partner at Zarwin Baum where he leads the firm’s elder abuse and neglect division. Since May of 1998, he has exclusively represented the victims of nursing home neglect and abuse, successfully prosecuting civil lawsuits against nursing homes, personal care homes, assisted living facilities, community based homes for persons with developmental disabilities and hospitals. His cases have involved instances where residents or patients have experienced physical abuse, developed severe yet avoidable pressure sores, suffered preventable falls, or choked on their food, among other examples of poor care.
Ron has routinely taught Continuing Legal Education programs sponsored by a variety of CLE providers on the topic of elder neglect and abuse. He has written articles offering advice and information to residents’ family members of residents which have appeared in local newspapers. In addition, Ron has been a guest on local radio and television programs to discuss the topic, answering questions from callers, including an appearance on “It’s Your Call” hosted by Lynn Doyle. He has participated at many community-wide programs, providing guidance and direction to family members of nursing home residents who struggled with care concerns. These efforts have included meetings sponsored by local chapters of the American Association of Retired Persons (AARP).
In September 2004, Ron was selected by the Legal Intelligencer and Pennsylvania Law Weekly as a “2004 Lawyer on the Fast Track.”
At Zarwin Baum, we have successfully prosecuted hundreds of cases on behalf of the victims of institutional/custodial neglect and abuse victims since 2000, including the following types of matters;
Frequently, nursing home residents who fall and fracture their hips will suffer deteriorating health, including the development of severe pressure ulcers. In 2014, we recovered $400,000.00 by settlement for a nursing home resident who fell, fractured her hip and went on to develop a significant sacral pressure ulcer.
Sexual Assaults – Persons with cognitive impairments are at a very high risk for physical and sexual assault. Many such persons are placed in residential care facilities on a full time, 24 hours per day basis. Most recently, we represented a 17 year old male who was anally raped by a much higher functioning housemate who shared a “Jack & Jill” bathroom with my client through which the housemate routinely entered my client’s private bedroom late at night. The case settled after jury selection for $1.5 million. Previously, Zarwin Baum recovered $750,000 on behalf of the victim of an apparent sexual assault that occurred in a local nursing home. The victim was attacked by as many as two male residents of the same facility who were known by the nursing home to be unrepentant sexual predators. The assault occurred during a shift change when the two male residents were left unattended in violation of their care plans.
Physical Assaults – Whether committed by staff members or fellow patients, physical assaults can have deadly consequences for the victim. In 2016, completed a $1 million settlement arising from the death of our elderly client who was killed when his aide threw him to the floor and stomped on his side after the resident experienced multiple episodes of incontinence and diarrhea. Also, recovered $600,000 to compensate our client who was assaulted by a fellow resident of a local, private psychiatric hospital after our client was placed into a shared room with a another patient who was known to be aggressive and easily agitated. In 2013, we recovered $325,000 for a man who was punched in the jaw by his nursing home roommate and suffered a fractured jaw.
Strangulation – Care dependent persons are inherently vulnerable and can suffer deadly injuries in ways both obvious and unusual. In August of 2008, our client became entrapped in a privacy curtain in his nursing home room. Due to his underlying cognitive impairments, our client panicked and twisted himself up in the curtain. He slowly strangled to his death. Shortly after filing a Writ of Summons, Zarwin Baum made a substantial, confidential recovery for the surviving widow.
Choking – Persons with cognitive and/or physical impairments often will lose the ability to eat whole foods and/or to eat any foods without assistance and/or supervision. Some persons who live in nursing homes are known as “grabbers,” literally grabbing food off of the trays of fellow residents even though those foods pose grave threats of harm to the grabber. In other instances, the facility kitchen delivers the wrong meal tray to a resident on a modified diet. And yet other times, an overworked, inattentive nursing aide might put too much food in a resident’s mouth, before the resident has had time to swallow. We have represented several victims in food choking cases in a variety of different settings.
Drowning – Tens of thousands of special needs adults throughout Pennsylvania live in group homes under the 24 hour care and supervision of home health aides. Many of the consumers suffer from physical and cognitive impairments (Autism, Mental Retardation, Downs Syndrome, etc.) that place them at risk for falls, elopement, drowning and the ingestion of poisons. Water poses a particular risk for persons with dementia and other cognitive impairments. Drowning deaths are a well-known risk when persons with impaired safety awareness and judgment are allowed to wander away from their caregivers. In 2014 , we represented a 52 year old man with a known history of seizure disorder who drowned in a bath tub at roughly 5 a.m. His aide failed to conduct 30 minute overnight bed checks. Our client was last seen by the staff at 3 a.m. The case settled for $400,000.00
Fires/Smoking – Zarwin Baum recovered $600,000 in a lawsuit against an area nursing home which allowed our elderly, memory impaired client to smoke a cigar unattended on an outdoor patio. The ash from the cigar fell onto his clothes, igniting multiple match packages that were held in a plastic pouch tied around our client’s neck, and engulfing him in flames. Our client died from his burns a few days later.
Zarwin Baum recovered $300,000 to compensate a woman who died when her home health aide failed to keep scheduled appointments, allowing a PICC line to grow dirty and to trigger a fatal blood stream infection.
Psychiatric Hospitals/Mental Illness -- Persons with mental illness can find themselves receiving acute medical care and/or residential services in a wide variety of facilities, including psychiatric wards in hospitals. Oftentimes, the patients are involuntarily committed and are administered psychotropic medications that increase the risk for falls. Some patients are exposed to the risk of assault by other, violent patients. And while the facilities and physical environments in hospitals are typically “up to code,” some non-hospital residential programs are provided in older buildings that were not designed or intended to meet the care needs of persons who have poor safety judgment. Most recently, I represented a 63 year old woman living in a treatment facility for persons recovering from alcohol dependency and mental illness. She fell down a flight of 20 stairs because the stairs were unsafe. We recovered an award of $900,000 at Arbitration.
Medication Errors – The use of medications for legitimate purposes is wide spread in nursing homes and other setting where residents commonly suffer from a host of medical problems. Sometimes, the wrong medication is prescribed and administered to a nursing home resident despite well-known diagnoses and clear warnings on medication labels. In 2003, Zarwin Baum recovered a combined settlement of $525,000 against a variety of Defendants who prescribed, filled and administered a medication order for our client that was plainly contrary to her medical profile. Our client died as a consequence.