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Florida Nursing Home Legislation Would Narrow Defendant List

Dual proposals in the Florida House and Senate would serve to narrow the entities that could be pursued by those filing a Hollywood nursing home negligence lawsuit.

The result would be that those who have suffered as a result of substandard care or abuse would have limited options for recovery. Additionally, providers that put profits over people would be allowed to evade responsibility for the damage they inflicted.

Yet politicians are making it seem as if the bigger issue is “greedy” plaintiff lawyers bringing “frivolous” lawsuits against entities that don’t deserve blame. Specifically, they are targeting a tactic used by nursing home abuse lawyers throughout the state to fight owners who use a “shell” company in order to shield themselves from liability in such claims.

SB 670 and HB 569 would make it so that investors – even those with significant control over day-to-day operations at the facility – would be insulated from liability if abuse, neglect or negligence was proven. Proponents of these measures point to a few cases where plaintiffs were awarded large sums of money for nursing home deaths attributed to negligence. These kinds of judgments, they say, are scaring investors away from the state at a time when nursing homes need investments to revamp old facilities in preparation for aging baby boomers.

However, there are some major problems with this argument, including the fact that so-called “passive investors” can’t be sued for liability anyway. Unless a law firm can prove that an investors had control over daily decision-making at the facility, few could prove liability.

Instead, what this measure will do is protect those who had a significant role in deciding the level of care that led to the incident. As Brian Lee, executive director for Families for Better Care, asserts, “culpable decision-makers will be immunized from accountability in cases of resident abuse and neglect.” This would be true regardless of the severity of the person’s injury. Further, residents would lose the ability to pursue even the corporate owner of a facility.

It should come as no surprise that the nursing home industry has been seeking a version of this bill for years. It’s no small matter either that the industry contributed $2.4 million in political campaign contributions in 2012. So far this cycle, they’ve poured almost $1 million into political coffers.

Another reason this version might be more successful than efforts in years’ past has to do with a concession that drafters of the bill made, which make it easier for residents of nursing homes, their relatives and their attorneys to obtain records from the nursing home without having to establish an estate.

It’s worth noting, however, that legislative protections that have been written into previous nursing home reform laws have dwindled significantly. For example, in 2001, the state initiated comprehensive nursing home reform, and as part of that, legislators indicated strong staffing standards. However in recent years, lawmakers have dropped many of those requirements. Today, 20 percent of Florida’s nursing homes are on the state’s watch list for “dangerous care.”

These protections are necessary, as are the means to recompense when the system fails.

Call Freeman Injury Law — 1-800-561-7777 for a free appointment to discuss your rights.

Additional Resources:
Legislators target ‘renegade’ law firm with bill to limit lawsuits, March 18, 2014, By Mary Ellen Klas, Miami Herald

More Blog Entries:
Wandering Patients: Leading Cause of Nursing Home Injury and Death, March 25, 2014, Hollywood Nursing Home Abuse Lawyer

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