Legal Eagle Eye Newsletter for the Nursing Profession (4)10 Jul 96


   There was no evidence the nurses caused, knew of or failed to deal with a hazardous condition.

   The nurse who assisted the visitor after she fell stated that the visitor had one plastic needle cap in her hand and that there were no needle caps on the floor.

   Housekeeping records indicated that the floor by the nurses’ station was being routinely inspected every twenty minutes. COURT OF APPEALS OF GEORGIA, 1996.


   A hospital visitor slipped and fell in a hallway in the vicinity of the nurses’ station, at approximately 2:00 o’clock in the afternoon. A nurse promptly came to her assistance. The nurse testified the visitor had a plastic needle cap in her hand, but that there were no needle caps or litter or foreign substances on the floor where the visitor had fallen.

   The Court of Appeals of Georgia ruled that the visitor’s personal injury suit against the hospital should be thrown out, for lack of evidence that the nurses or other hospital staff had been guilty of negligence.

   The visitor alleged in her suit that there were "a whole bunch" of plastic hypodermic needle caps on the floor where she fell and that the needle caps had caused her to fall.

   The hospital claimed in its defense that it had reasonably safe cleaning and inspection procedures in place, and that the visitor herself had failed to take reasonable care for her own safety.

   There was no evidence, according to the court, other than what the visitor stated, of needle caps being on the floor. Further, even if there had been needle caps on the floor by the nurses’ station, there was no proof the hazard was created by hospital staff, or was known to them, or had been there long enough for anyone to have done something to correct it.

   The court noted that a nurse seated working at the nurses’ station could not see the floor where the fall occurred, and thus the nurses could not be held responsible even if there were needle caps present there. Butler vs. Lanier Park Regional Hospital, 469 S.E. 2d 475 (Ga. App., 1996).