Civil Justice Clinic secures victory for nursing assistant in administrative trial

August 29, 2017Duke Law News

The Civil Justice Clinic recently secured a significant victory in court for its client, a certified nurse assistant who had her state certification revoked after charges of patient neglect were substantiated against her by the N.C. Dept. of Health and Human Services. Ben Wasserman ’17 initially handled the matter as an advanced clinic student in the spring 2017 semester, and Director of Externships Anne Gordon volunteered to try the case before an administrative law judge in Statesville, N.C., in July.

The client was charged with failing to use a prescribed mechanical lift to move a patient who was injured in a fall as a result. The Clinic assisted the client in appealing the revocation of her certification to the N.C. Office of Administrative Hearings, which was represented at the de novo trial by an attorney from the N.C. Department of Justice.

Gordon, who is also a senior lecturing fellow, successfully argued and presented evidence through direct and cross examinations of witnesses at the trial that the client had exercised her best judgment in deciding that a mechanical lift posed a greater danger to her patient under the circumstances than the manual lift technique she used, that the patient did not, in fact, suffer a fall, and that the minor injury noted later could have occurred as long as 12 hours prior to the transfer in question. The judge agreed with Gordon’s assertion that the conduct in question did not constitute neglect, and overruled the revocation, allowing the client to return to work in health care and proceed with training to become a registered nurse.

“This is a wonderful outcome for our client, who can now enroll in nursing school” said Clinical Professor Charles Holton ’73 who directs the Clinic. “Ben Wasserman did a good job in initially preparing the case, and Anne Gordon conducted a terrific trial. We are grateful to her for volunteering her time and energy in handling this case following Ben’s graduation.”