It appears that nursing home residents who are negligently injured will now be able to more easily sue the facility where they're residing, thanks to a recent ruling by the centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services, an agency within the Department of Health & Human Services.
In 2008, the Centers for Disease Control published that 1 in 10 elders reported emotional, physical or sexual abuse or neglect within the past year. Until now, if any of those avoidable injuries occurred, and the contract signed with the nursing home had an arbitration clause, a patient was sometimes required to handle the claim through forced arbitration, a form of dispute resolution that calls for two or more parties to submit their dispute to an arbitrator. As a result, their right to use the courts was limited or taken away altogether in some cases. Because of the new ruling, nursing homes that receive federal funding from Medicare or Medicaid can no longer require that disputes be settled by forced arbitration. Instead, injured victims will more easily be able to sue the facility for negligent wrongdoings and take their case to court.
Injuries suffered by patients in nursing homes include:
- Physical abuse by employees – such as punching & slapping patients
- Withholding medications
- Neglecting patients – such as not turning them regularly or not taking them to the bathroom
- Excessive use of restraints
- Emotional or Psychological abuse – screaming at patients, saying things to them to make them afraid
- Stealing financial information or personal property
- Sexual abuse
Some of the advantages of being able to file a lawsuit include:
- Claimants who file a lawsuit but get an unfavorable outcome may have the option of being able to appeal the decision to a higher court. Injured parties who have to submit to forced arbitration are bound by the arbitrators' decision and there is usually little or nothing they can do about it.
- Judges and juries must follow the law when making decisions. Arbitrators, on the other hand, might make decisions not based on strict adherence with the law, but based on what they think is fair. In fact, sometimes arbitrators do not even have to be lawyers or even know the law well.
- The outcome of a lawsuit is made available to the public. This is unlike forced arbitration, where disputes and their outcomes are often kept confidential. Confidentiality keeps people from knowing what's really going on in a nursing home facility. It means that people considering having their loved one cared for at a facility would not even be able to see if the facility has a history of abuse or neglect.
There are several other positive outcomes in the recent ruling that includes, but is not limited to:
- The patient's comprehensive person-centered care plan
- Their quality of care
- Their quality of life
- Their physician, nursing, dental & pharmacy services
- Their food and nutrition services
The entire list of provisions and details can be read here in the ruling itself.
This ruling is designed to protect nursing home residents and give family members peace of mind knowing that their loved ones are being adequately cared for. Of course, we can probably expect legal challenges to this ruling, but it is a step in the right direction to protect patients. If you suspect that you or your loved one is the victim of nursing home neglect or abuse then you should call a lawyer immediately.
Patients in nursing homes are some of the most vulnerable people in our society. The lawyers at Gautreaux & Sizemore are passionate about helping those who can't help themselves. Contact our office for a review of your claim. Our initial consultation is free and we don't charge anything unless we win your case.