Steps in the wrong direction
Part of the problem is Florida Bill SB 1384, a bill sponsored by Senator Bill Galvano. This bill would make it far more difficult for anyone wanting to sue a nursing home for severe misconduct. What Senator Galvano apparently does not recognize is that taking a nursing home to court does not always revolve around finances. Oftentimes it means that those parties involved want justice for a wrong that happened to them or a loved one. If the only way that a nursing home is going to change is by taking them to court for financial damage, so be it. This needs to be recourse open to the public. Sometimes forcing a change is only possible by making a nursing home owner pay a judgment. A judgment would force a negligent nursing home to either close its doors or make the necessary changes. For many this is not about making a profit, it is about not wanting anyone else to be harmed.
The current law on the books in Florida requires a “reasonable showing” of evidence to back up their claims. However, SB 1384 would raise that threshold, ensuring that a judge would need to see “clear and convincing” evidence. From there, a judge decides whether there is enough admissible evidence to continue the case in a pretrial hearing. Even though Kristen Knapp – the communications director for the Florida Health Care Association – argues that the nursing home industry only seeks ‘fairness’, opposition has called the bill “the worst nursing home litigation bill that one could ever see.” The bill seeks to introduce the fact that a defendant is personally guilty of gross negligence or intentional misconduct. Not only is the increase of this threshold unreasonable, but would also prohibit using a federal or state survey report when determining punitive damages. It is already difficult to get punitive damages in a case; it seems that the Florida Health Care Association is only looking for a quick way out. The deterrent factor for future behavior would essentially be eliminated if the bill passed.
Unacceptable lack of responsibility
There is no denying that elder care comes with its share of challenges. However, when facilities are actively trying to cover themselves against lawsuits resulting from poor care, one of the few aspects they are very much responsible for and in control of, it just puts the entire nursing home industry in a bad light. Perhaps those facilities fearful of being taken to court for poor care for its patients should focus its efforts on hiring qualified staff that is able to provide patients with professional care. If they are not, they should do everyone a favor and simply close their doors forever.