Please just take a moment to concentrate.
Close your eyes and try to imagine that you are lying back in a bed. This bed has not had the bed clothes changed for a while and you are currently laying in feces and urine because you are not able to get out of bed by yourself. You have not seen anyone come by or into the room for several hours. You have open bedsores that, although bandaged, are infected and now soaked with urine and feces. You are 85 years old and during your life you helped a great many people and contributed to many people’s lives. You want to cry, but the tears will not come.
Sound severe? Sound like it is exaggerated?
I have been involved reviewing and evaluating a number of claims for nursing home negligence and abuse over the years for both the defense and the plaintiff. This story is not an exaggeration and it is not too severe.
There are many good nursing home facilities and, although some are better than others, most make an honest effort at reasonable care for those to whom we owe good care – our elderly citizens. For those who have contributed to our society over the years and for those who often can not care for themselves.
Sadly, there are those nursing homes that are not good and who do not staff sufficiently to properly take care of the people they have promised they would. There are facilities in which the interests of the owners are to make as much money as possible and to do so with as low an overhead as they can possibly have. There are nursing homes in which the staff is so low that needy patients go hours and sometimes days without any meaningful care.
The Florida legislature currently has proposed to pass Senate Bill 1396, relating to the liability of nursing homes for negligence and gross negligence. The bill has nothing to do with improving nursing home care or helping to ease the burdens of the elderly.
What the legislature has done with this bill is go out of the way to protect the best interests of nursing home owners; there boards of directors and virtually all the management level people. The legislators have engineered a procedure requiring a hearing in order to substantiate claims against these officers and the bill seems a little unclear to me whether they are going to permit the hearing to occur after the injured nursing home resident is permitted to conduct discovery of facts and documents or before.
The proposed bill also has legislators fixing the value of elderly people at $300,000. The facts do not matter; it does not matter how much you loved mom; it does not matter that, but for the abuse, mom would have lived another 20 years; mom is not worth more than $300,000 according to Florida legislators. In addition to this, legislators also employ some legal maneuverings to limit damages even more if the injured elderly person dies.
The legislators have also crafted some language to protect the corporate officers and the corporation owning the nursing home. The corporation and its officers can only be held liable for punitive damages if the intentional misconduct or the gross negligence was “condoned, ratified, or consented” to by the “officers, directors, or managers of the actual employer corporation”. So, if the corporation is not spending the money to provide supervision of their nursing aides and they allow grandma to be ignored to the point she dies, the corporation can not be held liable for the damages unless specific knowledge can be proved.
Should this bill pass, the only objective thing, which can be said about it is that running a nursing home in Florida just got a great deal more profitable and being elderly in Florida just got a great deal more scary.