What Merits a Lawsuit Against a Nursing Home?

April 26, 2017

Ellis Law Corporation

Nursing Home

Elder neglect and abuse is an increasing area of legal concern for families who entrust the care of their loved ones to rest homes.  Assisted living facilities across the nation have been cited for alarming incidents of mistreatment toward their residents, and the unfortunate reality is that many of these cases go unreported by victims. Several studies have shown that state and federally funded nursing homes, as well as dozens of private ones, are under financial strain to provide the level of quality care and staff-to-resident ratio necessary to ensure the safety and security of their charges.

Assisted living facilities and nursing homes can be held legally liable for any physical injury, neglect, or emotional abuse sustained by a patient. In the past, suing for nursing home abuse or neglect was nearly impossible, thanks to fine print clauses in contracts that kept claims out of the courtroom, and forced into arbitration. However, just last year the Health and Human Services Department changed this rule, which would have barred civil litigation against federally-funded nursing homes. The new regulations are intended to help protect the more than 1.5 million seniors who are currently residing in facilities that receive Medicare and Medicaid monies.

What actions can give rise to a civil lawsuit?

Elder abuse is a broad term that can encompass a number of behaviors that harm, violate or exploit older adults. Many states, including California, have enacted Elder Abuse Laws intended deter and punish the mistreatment of the most frail and vulnerable among us. There are numerous behaviors, intentional and negligent actions that can give rise to a nursing home abuse lawsuit.

Victims and their families may sue for a wide variety of damages, including: pain and suffering, physical injury, neglect, emotional anguish, fraud, failure to provide an accepted standard of care, as well as failing to comply with state statutes on nursing home care.

The following are examples of actions and failures that can provide grounds for a civil lawsuit:

  • Lack of adequate supervision, which can lead to falls or injury
  • Failure to provide proper medical care, such as under-medicating, over-medicating, or administering the wrong drug
  • Use of unnecessary restraint (both physical and sedative restraints)
  • Negligent hiring of untrained personnel or staff with a history of elder abuse
  • Physical violence where the patient is hit, pushed or treated crudely
  • Any type of sexual abuse or misconduct
  • Neglect or abandonment – the failure to provide essential daily care, leading to malnutrition, dehydration, bed sores, infections or other harm to the patient
  • Financial exploitation, or the illegal taking or misuse of the patient’s money, assets or real property
  • Emotional abuse – using threatening language to humiliate, isolate or ridicule
  • Failure to maintain sanitary and safe conditions for residents
  • Failure to ensure the facility is free of hazards and dangers which can lead to life-threatening falls

If it can be demonstrated that residential care facilities, including their owners, managers and care givers deviated from the “standard” care, or failed to comply with regulations set forth by the Department of Health and Human Services, victims may have a viable claim for damages.

Although thousands of highly qualified and compassionate professionals work at nursing home facilities and assisted living centers, the growing number of aged Americans has meant a sharp uptick in cases of elder abuse and neglect.

Los Angeles nursing home abuse attorneys

In 1982, California passed the Elder Abuse Act, which provides legal remedies for victims of neglect, mental suffering, physical abuse, abandonment, financial abuse and other actions that cause pain and suffering. Furthermore, if it is proven that a defendant acted with “recklessness, oppression, fraud, or malice in the commission of the abuse,” plaintiffs can also seek punitive damages.

At Ellis Law Corporation, our dedicated legal team has helped many families in the greater Los Angeles area seek damages in elder abuse and neglect cases. To schedule a free, confidential consultation with a California nursing home abuse lawyer at our firm, please call 310-641-3335.

Additional Nursing Home Abuse Lawsuit Resources:

  1. NBC News, You may be signing away your right to sue the nursing home http://vitals.nbcnews.com/_news/2012/09/18/13924478-you-may-be-signing-away-your-right-to-sue-the-nursing-home?lite
  2. New York Times, U.S. Just Made It a Lot Less Difficult to Sue Nursing Homes https://www.nytimes.com/2016/09/29/business/dealbook/arbitration-nursing-homes-elder-abuse-harassment-claims.html?_r=0