A recent story from Jacksonville.com reminds me that nursing homes are constantly trying to get immunity from being held accountable for the severe abuse that occurs in their nursing homes. According to the Florida Times Union, emotional testimony from a woman whose mother was sexually assaulted in a Jacksonville nursing home took center stage as a Senate panel considered a bill strengthening lawsuit protections. The measure raises the threshold for those suing nursing homes to seek damages for excessive misconduct, or œpunitive damages. Current law requires plaintiffs to offer evidence for a pre-trial hearing but not have to prove beforehand it’s admissible, called a œproffer. The bill (SB 1384) would require that before a person seeks punitive damages, a judge must first grant permission. Also, it would require a more detailed hearing to vet evidence used.
Sandra Banning cast the bill as a giveaway to the often out-of-state corporations that own nursing homes. She told the story of Ivy Edwards, who in 2002 wheeled himself into Banning’s mother’s room at a Jacksonville nursing home and sexually assaulted her. œHe took that wheelchair and blocked that door and proceeded to rape my mother, Banning told the Senate Judiciary Committee Monday. She said the family was awarded a $750,000 judgment, which was never paid. An amendment removing a significant portion of the bill that made it tougher to sue a nursing home’s corporate parent, supporters say, should addressed many of those issues.
œSome of the provisions were struck from this bill improve it dramatically and the rest of the bill as it sits today I don’t think would have impacted your situation, Senate Judiciary Chairman Tom Lee, R- Brandon, said as her testimony concluded. Galvano said he accepted the amendment as an act of compromise. The Senate version of the bill now deals exclusively with punitive damages. Opponents argue that’s still too much because a 2001 change requiring 50 percent of nursing home-related punitive damage go into a state trust fund has already set the bar too high. Proponents counter with the argument that current law makes it too easy to bring frivolous punitive damage cases.
This potential law illustrates an issue that our nursing home abuse attorneys often run up against. The fact of the matter is, nursing home residents can’t or don’t vote. Some of them simply aren’t mobile, while others have dementia and other problems that would inhibit them from casting a ballot. With relatively few advocates on their side, politicians find their safety an easy place to cut corners.
These facilities don’t appear to be hurting for money, and yet, they continue to provide sub-par quality care for our parents and grandparents
If you or your loved one has been impacted by assault in the nursing home setting in Florida, please contact our nursing home abuse attorneys at Edwards & Ragatz, P.A.