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Nursing Home Covid-19 (Coronavirus) Wrongful Death Attorneys
News reports have been filled with numerous instances of nursing homes and rehabilitation centers that have been ravaged by outbreaks of COVID-19. Nursing home residents are perhaps the most vulnerable to this deadly illness as they are already infirm with pre-existing conditions. They have by far the highest fatality rate from COVID-19 and the numbers thus far have been disturbing.
We may never even know the true extent of the toll that coronavirus has taken on nursing homes. This is because nobody is fully tracking the number of deaths at these facilities. We suspect that the number of deaths in nursing homes is far higher than has been reported thus far.
As of April 14, 2020, the New York Times had reported the total number of fatalities at nursing homes in the United States had exceeded 3,800. As far as we are concerned, even one avoidable death at a skilled nursing facility is unacceptable. If the person who has died is your family member, that one death will have an immeasurable impact on your family.Lawyers Committed to Holding Skilled Nursing Facilities Accountable for Poor Covid-19 Infection Control Measures
If coronavirus has sickened or killed your loved one in a nursing home, you may be entitled to financial compensation due to improper infection control policies and inadequate personal protective equipment.
The first thing that you should do is hire a coronavirus lawyer with a background in taking strong legal action against nursing homes that fail to follow the law in caring for your family member. At the Nursing Home Law Center LLC, we have years of experience in taking nursing homes to task for neglect, abuse and other lapses in care and holding facilities accountable via civil lawsuits.The COVID-19 Outbreak Has Ravaged Elderly Nursing Home Residents
Here is a recap of some of the outbreaks in the nation’s nursing homes. This is only a small reporting of what has been widespread devastation that COVID-19 has wreaked on nursing homes with the assistance of the homes’ neglect and failure to control the situation. We are likely to hear of even more examples of malfeasance and failure to follow basic protocol when the outbreak is finally controlled.The Kirkland WA Tragedy
The Life Care Centers of America is a nursing home chain that has a large number of underperforming facilities that have received low quality ratings on their annual inspections. However, the nursing home in Kirkland, WA was one of the few nursing homes in the large chain that received the top ratings, although there had been inspection citations for failure to follow inspection control regulations in the past.
The nursing home was the epicenter of the coronavirus outbreak when the pandemic first began to hit the U.S. Even though there were indications that there was a contagious and fatal respiratory illness at hand, team members simply assumed that there was an outbreak of the flu and was lax in dealing with the crisis as it unfolded.
Specifically, the Life Care Center failed to rapidly identify and manage ill residents, notify the Washington Department of Health about the increasing rate of respiratory infection among residents and did not have a sufficient backup plan following the absence of the facility’s primary clinician, who fell ill.A Shocking Discovery in New Jersey
On April 15, 2020, police in New Jersey, acting on a tip, made a gruesome discovery when they went to visit the Andover Rehabilitation Center in Sussex County. They found 17 dead bodies in a makeshift morgue that was built to hold four bodies.
Health officials suspected that mass numbers of home residents were dying when the nursing home requested 25 body bags. Coronavirus devastated the facility with 33 residents having died from the illness. An additional 76 residents and 41 staff members have tested positive for cases of COVID-19. Currently, the nursing home’s owner is under criminal investigation.Accusations of Negligence in Joliet, Illinois
23 residents of the Symphony of Joliet nursing home in Illinois died in an outbreak of coronavirus in the facility. As of this writing, families have no idea what happened inside the nursing home and facility officials are not giving any details.
Families are accusing the nursing home of negligence as they seek answers for what happened. Employees had been telling family members that their loved ones were fine while they were presumably ill. Then, family members were surprised to learn shortly thereafter that their loved one was critically ill.The Nursing Homes' Obligations to Control Infections
Nursing homes are subject to some minimum basic obligations when it comes to infection control. In addition, the federal government has given some guidance to nursing homes on how to keep residents apart in order to protect them.
Even though the Centers for Medicare Services, The Centers for Disease Control (CDC) and State Departments of Health did not quickly give guidance, a skilled nursing facility would still have an obligation to use care when there is an outbreak of a pandemic that they know is highly contagious because of their obligation to have an infection control program regardless.
First, there are the basic infection control rules that a nursing home must follow in order to participate in the Medicare and Medicaid programs and receive reimbursement from the government.
The main infection control rules are found at 42 CFR (Code of Federal Regulations) 483.80. They state:
- The nursing home must have an effective infection control program
- They must have a system to prevent, identify, report, investigate, and control infections and communicable diseases for all residents, staff, volunteers, visitors, and other individuals.
- They must identify communicable diseases before they can spread to other residents
- They must have procedures for when to isolate a resident with an infectious disease
- The nursing home must prevent health care professionals with communicable diseases from having direct contact with a resident.
- Nursing homes must take precautions so diseases are not transmitted.
As you can see, existing nursing home regulations cover the current coronavirus crisis. As such, the Life Care Center in Kirkland, WA, which was the first nursing home ravaged by COVID-19, was fined over $600,000 by the federal government for its lapses in care that caused dozens of residents in the facility to die.CMS and CDC COVID-19 Guidance for Long-Term Care Facilities
Second, CMS and CDC issued supplemental guidance about nursing home facilities and medical care in general after COVID-19 cases became a pandemic. Some of this guidance states as follows:
- The CDC continues to add guidance requiring certain PPE (personal protective gear) and directing the facilities how to implement hand hygiene. CMS will institute both inspections in response to complaints as well as targeted inspection to make sure that the facility is following guidance.
- Outside visitors to long-term care facilities have been temporarily restricted, and in most cases, barred.
- Residents must be kept apart from each other in the dining room and other common areas.
- Staff members and residents must be actively screened for fever, health conditions and other respiratory symptoms.
These are just a handful of government rules to deal with the COVID-19 crisis. The federal government is continuing to issue new guidance and nursing homes must follow everything that the government has said as they are saying it. In other words, they must stay informed and make changes as they learn of new rules.
However, when many facilities have low quality rating and inadequate staffing, they are unable to do what they need to in order to keep their residents safe.Can Nursing Homes be Sued for Residents’ COVID-19 deaths?
Yes, likely. Just because a resident dies from an illness that has affected hundreds of thousands of people throughout the country does not mean that the nursing home is without any blame. They can be held liable for wrongful death just the same as they would if the resident died from nursing home neglect.
The failure to prevent the spread of infection is negligence even if the disease is highly contagious. Nursing homes owe a duty of care to protect their residents and this includes taking steps to control an infection that could spread throughout the facility.
Of course, many nursing homes are trying to use the political process to escape liability for their actions or inactions during the COVID-19 crisis. For example, nursing homes in Florida have boldly requested that the governor give them immunity from civil lawsuits. However, this is not likely to happen.What do You Need to Prove to Win a COVID-19 Lawsuit Against a Nursing Facility?
A COVID-19 lawsuit will proceed in the same way as any other nursing home lawsuit even if the topic is a complex pandemic that the country has never seen before. There is still the identical standard of proof as there would be in any wrongful death and personal injury lawsuit.
You will have to show that the nursing home acted with negligence that caused your loved one to become ill with coronavirus. This does not mean that every single mistake that the nursing home makes will cause them to be financially responsible for your loved one’s illness or death.
Instead, what negligence requires is that you make a showing that the nursing home failed to uphold its duty of care. In other words, you must demonstrate that a nursing home acted unreasonably when they failed to take the proper actions to safeguard their residents from the spread of infection.
One of the other things that is necessary for your coronavirus lawsuit is that you must prove that the unreasonable actions of the nursing home caused your loved one to get sick or die. This is what is known as causation, and will have to show that without the specific failure of the nursing home, your loved one would have never gotten sick.COVID-19 Nursing Home Lawsuits: Where Do They Stand?
The first lawsuits against nursing homes for their failure to protect their residents from outbreaks of COVID-19 have begun to be filed. These are just the first of many claims that will be filed as many skilled nursing facilities completely mishandled the spread of the pandemic among their residents.
- The Life Care Center in Kirkland, WA whose actions are detailed above is now facing lawsuits over its actions as coronavirus spread throughout the facility. The daughter of one of the residents who died filed a wrongful death lawsuit. She claims that nursing home negligence and neglect caused her mother’s death as they failed to adequately respond when COVID-19 hit the facility. The lawsuit alleges that the nursing home knew of the outbreak as early as February but failed to do anything to prevent the spread of the coronavirus. This is likely to be the first of many lawsuits filed against the nursing home given the number of people who died there.
- A pre-lawsuit letter was sent to Gallatin Center for Rehabilitation and Healing informing the skilled nursing facility of a coming wrongful death lawsuit. The plaintiff will claim that her deceased mother was not isolated after she complained of being sick. The letter alleges that the deceased was only taken to the hospital for illness after her daughter demanded that she be sent there. The plaintiff’s lawyer has stated that ten additional families with residents at the facility have contacted him to file their own lawsuit against the nursing home.
- A family in Hayward, CA has threatened civil liability against the health care facility where there loved one contracted COVID-19 and died. The family claims that, as late as March 14, they saw staff members walking around the facility without wearing gloves and other protective equipment. The nursing home admitted the deceased to the facility after the COVID-19 outbreak had started in the country. The particular nursing home at issue, East Bay Post-Acute, has a long history of rule violations, including one that led to a resident’s death last year.
The most important thing is to be able to document your possible case against the nursing home where your loved one died. You have the right to request your loved one’s medical and treatment records, and you should make sure to do that as soon as you can. The nursing home must give these records over although they will likely try to stonewall you knowing that what they hand over can be the basis of the lawsuit.
Make sure to follow the procedures set forth by HIPAA to request these records. It is helpful to have a lawyer on your side as you start to investigate the circumstances behind your loved one’s death. Even though you are grieving, you should start to ask questions and try to figure out what happened immediately after you receive word of your loved one’s illness or passing.Get Legal Help Now. We're Committed to Protecting Your Legal Rights
The attorneys at the Nursing Home Law Center have a long track record of fighting for their clients against nursing homes that have failed to live up to their basic obligations to take care of their residents and keep them safe from infection and disease.
We can help you in your pursuit to hold the nursing home accountable and get justice for your loved one’s injury or death. We are with you every step of the way from the moment that you call us until the time that your case is over. Call us today at (800) 426-9565.