Family members of nursing home residents offered powerful testimony about neglect and abuse in some facilities, but legislation to limit the impact of a nursing home lawsuit still passed the Florida Senate Rules Committee on April 15. The next stop is the Senate Floor. Although the bill has been stuck in the House, representatives could agree to the Senate version.
Siblings File Lawsuit after Mother’s Rape
One brother and sister related that their mother was subject to rape in 2002 at a Jacksonville Facility when another patient with a history of sexual attacks assaulted her. Although they were awarded a $750,000 judgment in a nursing home lawsuit, they never collected anything after the facility closed. They think the legislation could mean people will have even more trouble filing lawsuits if it passes. Their motivation in filing the lawsuit was to change the culture, and they were not concerned with the money. The brother questioned the panel as to who would benefit from the legislation. He feels that the nursing homes and administrators are being protected unfairly and that the bill does not look out for the best interests of patients.
Nursing Home Facility Perspective
A representative from the nursing home industry explained they wanted fairness. She added that in some cases, attorneys inflate the cost of court judgments although many cases are settled out of court.
Current laws make plaintiffs give evidence of alleged abuse before a trial, but that evidence does not need to be admissible in court. The new legislation would order those who are filing lawsuits to present the evidence to a judge at a pretrial hearing. The judge would determine the validity of the evidence and whether the case would move forward. However, the current laws allow the attorney to look at the amount of money available in the case and then decide if they want to pursue punitive damages.
The state previously ordered that monies from punitive damages must go into a trust fund, but that is not happening. The director for the Florida Justice Association, which helps lawyers who focus on consumer and patient lawsuits, feels that the bill is still a problem for the residents of elderly care facilities.