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Florida Jury Rules in Favor of Nursing Home Victim’s Family

A Florida Jury awarded $1.1 billion to the family of a 69-year-old woman who died in 2007 after receiving care at The Auburndale Oaks Healthcare Center in Auburndale, Florida. This award is considered one of the highest amounts in favor of a nursing home victim‘s family.

The woman’s son, who filed the lawsuit, stated that the nursing home failed to provide adequate supervision and that his elderly mother fell many times while staying at the Florida nursing home. The woman was admitted to the nursing home in 2004 and died in 2007.

Because the companies owning the nursing home stopped participating in the lawsuit, the jurors were asked to determine damages in monetary terms, but were not asked to determine liability. While this is considered a “default judgment,” it still sends a powerful message to nursing homes to comply with the state’s patient care and hygiene standards or risk being found negligent in providing the quality care nursing home patients deserve. The defendant in the lawsuit was Trans Healthcare, Inc. However, Trans Healthcare says it has not operated the facility since 2004. The Auburndale nursing home is currently operated by Encore Healthcare LLC.

The number of lawsuits against nursing homes and assisted living facilities is on the rise in Florida. An increase in the number of for-profit nursing homes is partially fueling the increase in litigation according to a report conducted by Bloomberg News. The news agency reports that the desire for profit is having a negative effect on patient’s quality of care. This trend is escalating as more nursing homes are operating on a for-profit basis rather than not-for-profit. As of 2010, seventy percent of all nursing homes were being operated on a for-profit basis, according to an audit completed by the Medicare Payment Advisory Commission. The study reveals that for-profit nursing homes have higher profit margins; those operating as for-profit had a 21 percent profit margin, compared to just 10 percent for non-profit nursing homes.

Lawsuits awarding large monetary damages to nursing home victims have been in the news lately. HCR ManorCare was issued a $91.5 million judgment, after finding that one of its facilities, Heartland of Charleston, did not care properly for a resident who died after a brief stay. Emeritis, a publicly traded nursing home company, was found guilty of wrongful death after a resident suffered from fatal pressure sores.

With the number of nursing home patients on the rise as the population ages, lawsuits against nursing homes and assisted living facilities are likely to increase. This is especially true in Florida, which has the largest percentage of residents over 65. Currently, there are 1.4 million people living in nursing homes in the United States, with approximately 72,000 residents in Florida nursing homes.

Tragically, many incidents of nursing home and abuse and neglect go unreported. The American Association of Justice reports that just one in 14 incidents of elder abuse are ever reported and that understaffing contributes greatly to nursing home abuse and negligence. A whopping 90 percent of all nursing homes in the United States are considered to have low staffing levels which result in inadequate supervision and medical care, according to the association.

When choosing a nursing home for a loved one, consumers should do their research. The Center for Medicare Advocacy, Inc., reports that compared to non-profit nursing homes, the top ten for-profit nursing home corporations have the lowest staffing levels, the highest number of violations, and the highest number of deficiencies leading to patient harm.

Written by Elizabeth Allen
If you suspect nursing home neglect or abuse, hiring an attorney who understands the nuances of nursing home neglect and abuse cases is critical. Contact our Jacksonville attorneys specializing in nursing home neglect and abuse today for a free initial consultation.

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