Court Erred in Not Defining Care Facility as Nursing Home

Elder Law Answers case summary.The Court of Appeals, First Appellate District of Ohio, reverses a summary judgment in part and affirms in part because it finds some issues of material fact. In Manter v. CPF Senior Living (Ohio Ct. App. No. C-230478, April 12, 2024).

Paul Manter resided in an assisted living facility, Northgate Park. He had hypertension, hyperlipidemia, chronic obstructive pulmonary disease, congestive heart failure, and neuropathy in his extremities. Alcoholism impaired his memory.

Northgate’s resident agreement stated that it does not provide skilled nursing. Each resident had a care plan with a different specified level of care. Although Mr. Manter’s care plan did not initially include assistance with bathing, it indicated that it could be modified after observations. After Mr. Manter exhibited trouble with bathing, Northgate adjusted his care plan to include hands-on assistance with showering or bathing two to three times a week.

Mr. Manter fell at Northgate and lacked memories of how it transpired. The fall led doctors to discover he had an ulcer in his left foot. Following failed procedures, physicians amputated his left leg below the knee. He sued Northgate for negligence, spoilation, breach of contract, intentional infliction of emotional distress (IIED), unjust enrichment, and violation of his rights under R.C. 3721.13 and 3721.14.

The lower court granted summary judgment to Northgate, and Mr. Manter appealed. Affirming in part and reversing in part, the court of appeals finds genuine issues of material fact, permitting the case to go forward.

The trial court erred in how it classified Northgate. It classified Northgate as a residential care facility under R.C. 5119.34 and 5123.19., rather than a home under R.C. Chapter 3721. However, a Chapter 3721 home does not need to provide skilled nursing care.

When the trial court determined that Mr. Manter failed to show the duty element in his negligence claim, it also erred. If the trial court finds on remand that Northgate is a Chapter 3721 home, this would entitle Mr. Manter to rights under the chapter, giving rise to a duty of care. However, Northgate did not owe Mr. Manter a duty under his contract claim because a breach of contract does not create a tort claim under Ohio law.

Still, issues of material fact pertain to his breach of contract claim, allowing it to go forward. It remains to be resolved whether Northgate staff had instructions to prevent Mr. Manter from falling when bathing. The trial court also improperly weighed credibility when it disregarded some of Mr. Manter’s testimony while relying on other parts of it.

The lower court correctly found the IIED claim failed because the record showed no extreme and outrageous conduct. To the contrary, Mr. Manter testified to pleasant interactions with staff.

Because some issues of material fact persist, the court of appeals affirms the summary judgment in part and reverses it in part.

Read the full opinion.