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Florida Senate Passes Bill Shielding Nursing Home Industry Interests

A bill that would make it tougher for victims of nursing home abuse in Florida to obtain justice has been passed by the state senate with a vote of 36-3.

SB 670 would make it so that those not directly linked to the operation of a nursing home would be protected from litigation stemming from abuse, neglect or negligence in the care of elderly patients.

While similar measures had failed to gain steam in Florida previously, our Broward nursing home abuse lawyers are troubled by how rapidly this one has thus far worked its way through the legislative process. Now that it has swiftly passed the state senate, the next stop is the house. If it passes there, it will require the governor’s signature to become law.

The practical effect of the law is that victims of nursing home abuse and neglect would stand to be compensated significantly less, as wealthy private equity firms and many investors would be shielded from liability under the new law. That means even owners of a nursing home facility could skip out on responsibility for what happens there, so long as they maintain a certain degree of distance from day-to-day operations.

Proponents say that protecting passive investors from liability will encourage more to invest in Florida’s nursing home industry, which is enduring rapid expansion as the elder population grows.

However, this allows investors to continue pouring money into nursing homes that don’t make patient safety a priority. A growing number of for-profit firms are concerned with keeping costs low and profit margins high. The first thing many corporations do when they are looking to cut costs is to reduce staff. But that increases the chances that neglect, negligence and abuse will occur or go undetected. Still, when there is a degree of liability, folks tend to be a bit more careful with where their money is going.

But even beyond that, those who have a passive role in a nursing home’s operations are already protected to a great degree under current tort laws. In order to be found liable, parties have to have owed some duty to the aggrieved that was violated and proximately resulted in injury. A person or entity who merely invests in a facility, without any significant say over day-to-day decisions, likely isn’t going to be a target of any lawsuit.

The true goal, as opposed to the stated purpose of protecting passive investors, is to shield culpable corporate decisionmakers. These are the people who make crucial decisions, such as how the facility is run, how budgets are set and how much is put aside for profit.

It should also be noted that the last time the legislature initiated nursing home reform in 2000, our state was successful in receiving strong staffing standards. However, in the years since, lawmakers have dropped those requirements, and now 20 percent of state nursing homes are on the state’s watch list for dangerous care.

So before we start initiating reforms that serve to make life easier for powerful industry leaders, perhaps we need to revisit the renewed implementation of protections for residents. Then maybe the industry wouldn’t need to worry about so many lawsuits in the first place.

Call Freeman Injury Law — 1-800-561-7777 for a free appointment to discuss your Broward nursing home abuse case.

Additional Resources:
State Senate moves bill shielding nursing home interests, April 3, 2014, By Steve Miller, Associated Press

More Blog Entries:
Florida Nursing Home Legislation Would Narrow Defendant List, April 1, 2014, Broward Nursing Home Abuse Lawyer Blog

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