The nursing home and long-term care industry is big business. Approximately $200 billion a year is brought in by the estimated 75,000 establishments. They are trusted and paid very well to take care of our elderly and disabled. Unfortunately, there have been too many cases of neglect and abuse within these facilities. When it comes down to financial responsibility for the mistreatment of their patients, who is liable?
The Nursing Home Ownership Maze
In cases where nursing homes are found negligent by a court or jury, there is an ongoing issue of finding the “true” owners of the homes. Sometimes there seems to be several owners, all owning different aspects of the business, or the ownership changes names on paper, but yet everything else stays the same. This strategy seems to be to purposely hide their revenue and assets, so that it becomes difficult for plaintiffs to collect on financial judgments awarded.
A recent case against the Oak Park nursing home in Illinois for a wrongful death of an 80-year old man brought to light a string of ownership changes and shuffling of the responsible agent for the home. There have been at least three changes in the three months since the death of the resident. This can make it difficult to even start a legal case, as it can be unclear as to who was responsible at the time of the incident.
Another case in Florida where Pinelas Park Care was found responsible for the wrongful death of a 92-year old resident has brought similar struggles to find the entity that is financially liable. Since the death of the patient, the original company that owned the home is no longer in existence. The home has now been split up between two different companies, each owning different aspects of the home. Once again, it makes collecting the judgment difficult.
Profits Before People – Once Again
Both these examples show how these companies use complex internal structures to avoid liability. According to both lawyers that are handling these two separate cases, this is nothing they have not seen before. When it comes to finding the financially responsible party in this type of business, it comes down to tracking the money trail. So even if the home is found negligent, the legal team then has to prove that the holders of the finances for the company are responsible. It is a huge undertaking and can delay any financial award that the plaintiffs have been awarded.
It seems that these companies have put their profits before their resident’s well-being and are finding complex ways to hide from the financial repercussion of providing less than adequate care for their residents. With 91% of nursing homes under staffed, this trend may only continue. Unfortunately, the price of doing business – in this case – is costing lives.