Bill Would Limit Options for Florida Nursing Home Abuse Victims

Some members of the Florida legislature are on a mission to curtail the rights of elderly victims and their families by limiting the entities they could name in a nursing home abuse lawsuitbusinesshandshake

The measure would bar plaintiffs from pursing the nursing home’s investors in litigation. The reasoning, according to proponents, is that because of the increasing demand for elder care services in the coming years, facilities are going to be leaning on investors to help them update and expand. Therefore, investors must be protected.

But our Naples nursing home neglect attorneys know it’s little more than an excuse to further insulate themselves from liability for poor quality of care. Firstly, many nursing homes attempt to shield themselves from liability through the establishment of what is essentially a “shell” organization. This setup makes it easier to conceal or protect certain assets, which means victims may be denied the compensation they deserve.

That’s why personal injury lawyers have begun going after investors, who are in fact quite active in the day-to-day decision-making of the facility. The reality is that even under current law, if a defendant were truly a “passive investor,” someone who merely provided money to the venture, it would be very difficult to successfully sue them in civil court.

An increasing demand for nursing home services over the next two decades means that well-run facilities will have no trouble obtaining the capital necessary to initiate expansion. As it stands, nursing homes in Florida receive 90 percent of their revenue from a steady stream of state and federal funds.

If legislators were being honest, they would say that what these measures – SB 670 and HB 569 –  are really an effort to protect the power players in the lucrative, deep-pocketed nursing home industry. Not-so-coincidentally, the industry has been a large source of donations to a number of Florida politicians.

The nursing home industry has been gunning for a measure like this for years – and continues to spend lavishly to accomplish its goals. The Miami Herald reports the industry spent nearly $2.5 million on Florida political campaigns in 2012. So far this year, it’s spent nearly $1 million.

Investment companies have found nursing home management to be incredibly lucrative. They are fighting to defend against any interference with that cash flow.

Any assertion that they are being scared away from the state due to legal liability is inaccurate. Consider that just recently one of the largest nursing home investors in Florida sold its entire health care portfolio – 35 percent of which is Florida – for more than $1 billion. Demand for investment opportunities is still high.

We don’t begrudge investors earning money. The problem is when profits are placed over patients, which happens all-too-often, particularly in the increasing number of for-profit facilities. The number of staffers are significantly reduced and services are slashed – at the direction of investors. The goal is to make money, not to ensure patient well-being. As a result, the quality of care is significantly impacted. That makes it more likely that nursing home abuse and neglect will occur, which makes it more likely that lawsuits will be filed.

That’s not a result of anything personal injury lawyers are perpetuating. That’s a direct result of the industry’s failure to ensure it’s doing right by those for whom it promises to care. This legislation will only serve to protect those who are not providing a basic standard of care.

Regardless of the outcome this legislative term, we will continue to fight for the rights of those who have suffered abuse and neglect in Florida nursing homes.

Contact the Hollander Law Firm at 888-751-7770 for a free and confidential consultation. There is no fee unless we win.