Close this search box.

Nursing Home Fined $320,000 Over Care of Ventilator Patients

Print Article


When a nursing home demonstrates that it is unable to provide consistent quality care there are several ways to correct its problems. The marketplace offers one corrective opportunity, of course. Personal injury lawsuits may effect some improvement in future care, if only because the nursing home’s insurance provider may insist on changes before agreeing to continued coverage. Perhaps the most direct control, however, is provided by federal and state government regulation.

As an example, consider Fairfax Nursing Home in Berwyn, Illinois. The facility has a history of problems with ventilator-dependent patients—those who require a mechanical device to assist with their breathing. One of the first incidents occurred in 1996, when a patient on a ventilator experienced a respiratory emergency. Staff members responded appropriately and administered oxygen, but one therapist turned off the patient’s ventilator to silence its alarm. Once the patient was stabilized the therapists left the room, but no one remembered to turn the ventilator back on, and the patient died.

Over the next year state health inspectors made surprise inspection visits and followed patients’ charts. In at least five cases inspectors determined that Fairfax employees were not following their own regulations for handling ventilator-dependent patients, and that a “civil monetary penalty”—a fine—should be imposed. The state suggested that the federal government levy a fine of $3,050 for each day that Fairfax violated its own protocols. Since the violations stretched over 105 days, the total fine amounted to $320,000.

Fairfax appealed the imposition of a fine to the federal Court of Appeals. The nursing home argued that the fines should have been imposed at a much lower rate—as low as $50 per day of violation—because its deficiencies did not place patients in “immediate jeopardy.”

The Court of Appeals upheld the fine. The Court agreed with the Administrative Law Judge who initially heard the case, who had held that any respirator-dependent patient at Fairfax during the period in question was endangered by “the systemic incapacity of the facility to render the necessary care to sustain life and avoid serious injury.” Fairfax Nursing Home, Inc., v. United States Department of Health and Human Services, August 15, 2002.

Nursing home residents and their families have limited access to information about the quality of care in individual facilities. The results of periodic surveys such as those made at Fairfax Nursing Home, however, are available to consumers and interested persons. The record of inspection results at every nursing home receiving Medicare or Medicaid funds can be reviewed online at More information about how family members can help ensure better nursing home care for their loved ones can be found through the National Citizens’ Coalition for Nursing Home Reform at

Stay up to date

Subscribe to our Newsletter to get our takes on some of the situations families, seniors, and individuals with disabilities find themselves in. These posts help guide you in the decision making process and point out helpful tips and nuances to take advantage of. Enter your email below to have our entries sent directly to your inbox!

Robert B. Fleming


Robert Fleming is a Fellow of both the American College of Trust and Estate Counsel and the National Academy of Elder Law Attorneys. He has been certified as a Specialist in Estate and Trust Law by the State Bar of Arizona‘s Board of Legal Specialization, and he is also a Certified Elder Law Attorney by the National Elder Law Foundation. Robert has a long history of involvement in local, state and national organizations. He is most proud of his instrumental involvement in the Special Needs Alliance, the premier national organization for lawyers dealing with special needs trusts and planning.

Robert has two adult children, two young grandchildren and a wife of over fifty years. He is devoted to all of them. He is also very fond of Rosalind Franklin (his office companion corgi), and his homebound cat Muninn. He just likes people, their pets and their stories.

Elizabeth N.R. Friman


Elizabeth Noble Rollings Friman is a principal and licensed fiduciary at Fleming & Curti, PLC. Elizabeth enjoys estate planning and helping families navigate trust and probate administrations. She is passionate about the fiduciary work that she performs as a trustee, personal representative, guardian, and conservator. Elizabeth works with CPAs, financial professionals, case managers, and medical providers to tailor solutions to complex family challenges. Elizabeth is often called upon to serve as a neutral party so that families can avoid protracted legal conflict. Elizabeth relies on the expertise of her team at Fleming & Curti, and as the Firm approaches its third decade, she is proud of the culture of care and consideration that the Firm embodies. Finding workable solutions to sensitive and complex family challenges is something that Elizabeth and the Fleming & Curti team do well.

Amy F. Matheson


Amy Farrell Matheson has worked as an attorney at Fleming & Curti since 2006. A member of the Southern Arizona Estate Planning Council, she is primarily responsible for estate planning and probate matters.

Amy graduated from Wellesley College with a double major in political science and English. She is an honors graduate of Suffolk University Law School and has been admitted to practice in Arizona, Massachusetts, New York, and the District of Columbia.

Prior to joining Fleming & Curti, Amy worked for American Public Television in Boston, and with the international trade group at White & Case, LLP, in Washington, D.C.

Amy’s husband, Tom, is an astronomer at NOIRLab and the Head of Time Domain Services, whose main project is ANTARES. Sadly, this does not involve actual time travel. Amy’s twin daughters are high school students; Finn, her Irish Red and White Setter, remains a puppy at heart.

Famous people's wills

Matthew M. Mansour


Matthew is a law clerk who recently earned his law degree from the University of Arizona James E. Rogers College of Law. His undergraduate degree is in psychology from the University of California, Santa Barbara. Matthew has had a passion for advocacy in the Tucson community since his time as a law student representative in the Workers’ Rights Clinic. He also has worked in both the Pima County Attorney’s Office and the Pima County Public Defender’s Office. He enjoys playing basketball, caring for his cat, and listening to audiobooks narrated by the authors.