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Nursing Home Abuse Liability Not Curtailed by “Survival Law” in Florida

The nursing home abuse and neglect at a single facility in Minnesota six years ago was one of the worst that state had ever seen.

It reportedly involved the physical and sexual assaults of some 15 residents at the facility, ultimately resulting in the criminal conviction of two nursing aides and a change in state law. However, when victims and their families sought accountability against the nursing home itself, through a number of individual civil lawsuits, they found justice denied.

Under an antiquated state statute, called the “Survival Law,” personal injury claims involving a plaintiff who has died are not allowed to move forward. In the years since these lawsuits have been filed, every single one of the nursing home patients passed away. That meant their lawsuits died with them.

Most states – including Florida – had similar laws until the early 20th Century, when legislatures moved to adopt a newer standard. However, four states – Minnesota, Indiana, Idaho and Colorado – still have Survival Laws on the books.

Advocates for reform say this is a perfect example of why the law needs to change.

Thankfully, Florida does not have a Survival Law. However, there are plenty of limitations on personal injury claims, and potential plaintiffs need to be aware that in order to pursue litigation, they need to act fast in order to preserve that right.

In most personal injury cases in Florida, the statute of limitations is four years from the date of the injury – or discovery of the injury – in which to file a claim. However, claims of medical malpractice and wrongful death must be filed within two years of the incident.

Injury law can also be complex with regard to the kinds of acts for which a nursing home facility can be held liable. It’s best not to take your time in deciding whether to file a negligence lawsuit because there have been instances in which cases have been dismissed not because they lacked merit, but solely because they weren’t filed according to the strict statute of limitations guidelines.

In the case of nursing home abuse in Minnesota, family members say they intend to fight to change state law. While it’s too late for their cases, they hope to prevent such agony in the future.

In this situation, those responsible were teenagers – two 19-year-olds, one 18-year-old and four who were under the age of 18 when they worked as aides. They reportedly spat in residents’ mouths, poked and groped their genitals and breasts and subjected them to taunting and humiliation until they screamed.

The victims were retired school teachers, WWII veterans, mothers, fathers and beloved grandparents. Their surviving relatives say the nursing home knew or should have known about the abuse far sooner, and acted to protect them from these vicious youth.

Laws like the one in Minnesota encourage defendant nursing homes to move as slowly as possible in court cases. If they can drag the case out for many months or years, they can emerge victorious when the patient directly involved dies.

(The only exception to the law is if the patient dies as a direct result of the alleged abuse or negligence.)

The idea behind these kinds of laws is that injury lawsuits should be geared toward making the injured party whole again. If that party is deceased, there is no need to “make them whole” because they are gone.

Of course, this discounts the pain and suffering of loved ones who watched their beloved relative suffer. Plus, it results in a lack of accountability for defendants simply because the plaintiff didn’t live long enough to see the case through to its conclusion.

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

Additional Resources:
In Minnesota, abuse lawsuits die with the victims, Jan. 20, 2014, By Brandon Stahl, Star Tribune

More Blog Entries:
Nursing Home Neglect, Medical Malpractice, Led to Amputation, Patient Says, Jan. 10, 2014, Davie Nursing Home Abuse Lawyer Blog

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