Ohio’s Wrongful Death Statute as It Applies to Nursing Home Deaths

Word cloud related to standards, with major words including rules, regulations, criminal, safety, lawmakersIn Ohio, wrongful death cases are based on the Ohio Revised Code Chapter 2125. While an injury case is based on a person or nursing home resident’s pain and suffering, whereas a wrongful death case is based on the loss of a loved one.

History of Ohio’s Wrongful Death Statutes

Edward J. Leonard, a Cleveland State University alum, wrote in his article “Discovery Rule in Wrongful Death,” in the Journal of Law and Health from 1989 about the history of Ohio’s Wrongful Death Statutes. He stated that the “present Ohio wrongful death statute has its origins in nineteenth century English law.” The English version was relatively ground breaking, since up to that point, the law did not take into consideration actions of wrongful deaths.

Leonard writes that the English version was introduced by Lord Campbell. It provided that someone could bring action against someone else based on a wrongful act, neglect, or default such that if the person would have been able to bring action had they not died, even if the action could be considered a felony, the action had to be brought forth by the executor for the benefit of the persons, wife/husband, parents, and child of the deceased, and action must be brought forth within one year of the person’s death.

According to Leonard, in Ohio a similar statute was first enacted in 1851 by 43 Ohio Laws 117. The main differences being the statute of limitations: two years after the person’s death and the felony-merger doctrine (civil action is to be delayed until after criminal proceedings).

What is a wrongful death?

A wrongful death is the result of negligence, a wrongful act, or default. When someone acts or fails to act and the result is the death of another person Ohio laws provide that the family of the deceased can receive justices in the form of a monetary award.

Nursing home residents almost always require the care of professionals for daily living needs, medical needs, or cognitive needs, which is why they are in nursing homes in the first place.  When a nursing home is careless, and injures a resident, your lawyer will have to prove the injuries were caused by the negligence.

Are Wrongful Death Cases Different?

Nursing home wrongful death cases need to be handled differently.

Beyond proving the negligence, and that negligence caused an injury, you have to prove the injury caused the person’s death.  That is not easy when there may be days or weeks between an injury and death.  Especially with the average nursing home resident having medical issues already.  Unless the medical examiner is informed about the injury or negligence—not terribly likely—they might determine the cause of death was related to those underlying conditions.

The nursing home may fight the issue of whether their carelessness caused the resident’s death, even if they admit negligence and injury.  By admitting negligence and injury, the nursing home’s lawyers hope to have jury cut off their liability with the death.  This is called “causation”: whether the jury finds the nursing home caused the death.

Wrongful death cases also require a lawyer to be knowledgeable about grief, loss, and persuasively communicating loss to total strangers (the jury).   That is no easy task, especially for a lawyer who is primarily handling injury cases. Combined with the unique nature of nursing home litigation, nursing home wrongful death cases are a difficult and complicated type of case requiring experience.

If you would like to discuss your loved one’s situation, injuries, or death at a nursing home, call us at 216-777-8856, or fill out the contact form.  You can also read more, including how nursing home abuse lawsuits work.


You can read Edward J. Leonard’s article here.

Edward J. Leonard is graduated from Cleveland State University in 1990 and is currently the Director of the Franklin County Board of Directors.


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