Florida Assisted Living Abuse Attorneys
Answering Your Difficult Florida Assisted Living Abuse Questions
Our Florida assisted living facility negligence lawyers have decades of experience suing ALF’s. Call us today for your free case consultation: 1-888-375-9998.
Experienced. Compassionate. Narrowly focused. Our Florida ALF abuse attorneys can help you on your journey to justice.
Florida Assisted Living Abuse – What Are My Rights?
We are often asked by potential clients, “can I sue a Florida assisted living facility for abuse and neglect?” The answer is yes. Chapter 429 of the Florida Statutes specifically provides a private cause of action against ALF’s for negligence resulting in assisted living facility injuries. Most Florida ALF negligence cases stem from a violation of the Florida Assisted Living Facility Residents Rights, so it is important to learn about the rights of ALF residents under Florida law.
Your Florida Assisted Living Negligence Lawyers
Senior Justice Law Firm is a Florida-based law firm focusing on elder abuse litigation. We only represent victims and their families. Our goal is to hold negligent assisted living facilities accountable for the injuries and wrongful death they cause. Our lawyers have some of the largest verdicts and settlements in Florida in this sub-specialty. Most importantly, we care. Let our Assisted Living injury lawyers’ decades of experience ensure your voice is heard, and that your case value is maximized. Call to speak with our experienced lawyers today for your free assisted living facility negligence claim evaluation by calling 1-888-375-9998.
Assisted Living Facility Resident Rights in Florida
Many are surprised to learn that every Florida resident of an ALF has a guaranteed ‘bill of rights’ created by our legislature. §429.28 provides, by law, that each ALF resident shall have the right to:
- Be free from abuse, like allowing repeat falls
- Be free from neglect, like pressure sores
- Be treated with courtesy, dignity and respect
- Enjoy unrestricted, private communication with family and physicians
- Manage their own financial affairs, if mentally competent.
Assisted Living Rights Violations Commonly Result in ALF Abuse Lawsuits
When the above rights are violated, the family of the victim may pursue an Assisted Living Facility negligence lawsuit under Florida law. The most common ALF negligence allegation is that the resident was neglected or abused.
Most Florida assisted living abuse lawsuits arise out of the following injuries:
- Repeated falls
- Undocumented ‘mystery’ broken bones
- Patient wandering out of the facility
- Dehydration and starvation
- Medication errors
- Wrongful death
If you believe your loved one was injured or wrongfully killed due to A.L.F. neglect, contact our compassionate, experienced elder abuse lawyers now. The call is free and there is never an obligation to pursue your case. Speak with an Assisted Living injury attorney today at 1-888-375-9998 to learn more about your legal options.
A.L.F. Negligence: A Growing Problem in Florida
It is no secret that Florida has a disproportionately elderly population. The Sunshine State is the land of sun, fun and retirees. As medicine allows us to live longer, our state’s population grows increasingly older. However, the number of skilled nursing facilities (nursing homes) is shrinking. How can this be? It is because of the explosive growth of the assisted living facility industry in Florida.
“Please don’t ever put me in a nursing home.” Our parents have joked with us with remarks like this one. However, the negative reputation associated with nursing homes is no joking matter. Adult children feel guilty placing mom in a nursing home, and this is why the population of Florida’s skilled nursing facilities are dropping. So does this mean that older Floridians no longer need in-house long term care? Of course not. Assisted Living Facilities are filling this void and marketing to families that they are the ‘nursing home alternative.’ By playing on the guilt of the family, ALF management astutely maximizes its census by admitting high-risk, high-acuity patients who would be better cared for in a nursing home.
An Illusion of Safety Inside Assisted Living
Florida law requires that if an assisted living facility cannot meet the needs of its resident, it must send the resident out to a higher care facility. This is not always the case when an ALF is getting good insurance and/or private pay money for its resident. It may want to keep the resident in-house and continue to cash those checks. Failing to recognize the patient’s change in condition and deterioration can be considered ALF negligence. Let’s analyze a typical example of this. Jane Smith enters a West Palm Beach assisted living facility as a spry 78-year-old woman. She is mentally competent, but has early onset dementia and walks with a walker. Her 1823 form, signed by her doctor, says she can live in assisted living. At this point, she is appropriate for ALF care under Florida law. However, Jane spends 6 years in the ALF. Her dementia deteriorates. Her ability to walk also decreases. She is more confused and more unsteady on her feet. She suffers 4 falls during her 6th year. Yet, because she has good insurance, the ALF does not want to send her to a higher care, skilled nursing facility. The ALF management team convinces the family to keep her in the facility at the care plan meetings. They overpromise care that they cannot and do not provide. It is no surprise when Jane suffers her 5th fall at the ALF, this time suffering a brain bleed and passing away.
In the above example, the ALF’s defense will be “we are not a nursing home so we cannot prevent falls.” The assisted living facility’s lawyers will try to look at the 6th fall in a vacuum, ignoring all the other red flags that presented before that fall. However, the problem here is much deeper than preventing only that 6th fall. This is a problem of ALF corporate greed in keeping a resident that the facility clearly could not care for. We have handled cases against assisted living facilities in fact patterns like this and were permitted by the Judge to seek punitive damages (extraordinary, punishment) against the ALF.
ALF Negligence Lawsuits in Florida
Our assisted living facility abuse lawyers have decades of experience prosecuting abuse cases against A.L.F.’s in Florida. For this reason, we are brought in by local counsel to assist in assisted living facility lawsuits across the state.
When we file an assisted living facility negligence lawsuit, we do so under §429.28, which states in pertinent part:
“Any person or resident whose rights (under §429.28) are violated shall have a cause of action. The action may be brought by the resident or his or her guardian, or by a person or organization acting on behalf of a resident with the consent of the resident or his or her guardian, or by the personal representative of the estate of a deceased resident regardless of the cause of death.”
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We have litigated long term facility neglect cases in the Florida counties shown on the map.
Assisted living facility negligence usually arises out of the ALF staff failing to do something that the resident requires. This could mean a failure to provide supervision, medication, medical treatment or communicate with the patient’s physician. It may also mean physical abuse, either at the hands of nurse or by a fellow ALF resident.Common A.L.F. abuse and neglect injuries include:
- Unexplained fractures
- Elopement (a wandering out of the facility unattended)
- Failure of the ALF to send the patient to a higher care facility, like a nursing home
- Bedsores (Pressure Ulcers)
- Medication mistakes (withholding meds or accidentally overdosing medication)
- Failure to respond to a deteriorating condition
- Failing to prevent other resident-on-resident attacks
“But We Are Not a Nursing Home… We Are Just an A.L.F.”
Ironically, no ALF undersells its level of care until something goes wrong. Only after an injury happens do we hear the excuse, “we are just an assisted living facility.” This is the inherent defense in any assisted living facility negligence lawsuit. “We do not provide the level of care of a nursing home.” That may be true, but the Florida administrative regulations are clear on an ALF’s duties to their residents.
Florida Administrative Code Regulations Governing Assisted Living Facility Care
In most assisted living facility injury cases, the ALF claims it has no duty under Florida law to provide care and supervision to their resident. We know, based on the applicable Florida law, this is false.
58A-50182 lays out the Resident care requirements for Florida’s ALFs. This ALF regulation requires the facility:
- Supervise the resident’s whereabouts on and off the facility premises,
- Observe the resident’s whereabouts and remain aware of their health, safety and physical wellbeing,
- Contact the resident’s guardian if something changes in the resident’s condition, or they suffer an injury,
- Maintain a written record of any illness or significant change in condition,
- Supervise and assist the resident with activities of daily living (i.e. walking, eating, bathing, dressing, etc.)
- Establish elopement prevention policies to prevent the wandering of residents,
58A-5.0181 discusses the criteria to determine if the Resident is an appropriate candidate for living in the assisted living facility. The facility must:
- Be able to perform activities of daily living with supervision and/or assistance from ALF staff,
- Not accept a resident with Stage 3 or 4 pressure sores, or allow pressure sores to develop,
- Not allow a bedridden resident to continue to reside in the ALF,
- Ensure the resident does not need 24 hour nursing care, like what is provided at a nursing home,
- Have its Administrator and a health care professional periodically examine and assess the resident for continued residency in the facility, especially after a significant change in condition, like a fall or traumatic event.
If the resident does not meet the requirements for admission or continued residency in the Florida ALF, the facility must discharge the resident to a higher care facility.
58A-5.019 details the staffing standards required of Florida assisted living facilities. This ALF regulation requires that the ALF provide enough staff to provide appropriate care to all its residents, as required by Chapters 408, Part II, 429, Part I, F.S. and Rule Chapter 59A-35, F.A.C.. This means if an ALF accepts confused, demented residents with a higher care level, the ALF must provide enough staff to provide care for these residents.
- Brain injury
- Spinal injury
- Disfigurement and scarring
- Broken bones, or
- Any condition involving the police or transfer to a higher care facility
Assisted Living Facility Negligence Jury Verdicts & Settlements in Florida
The following are jury verdicts in Florida involving allegations of ALF neglect. Remember, each case is different and no result is guaranteed. These large ALF verdicts do not account for the many defense verdicts across Florida. Speak with our assisted living facility abuse attorneys today to discuss your potential case at 1-844-253-8919.
SUMMARY:Result: $2,395,828 VERDICT INCLUDING $1,500,000 IN PUNITIVE DAMAGES
VIOLATION OF FLORIDA’S ASSISTED LIVING FACILITY ACT; FLORIDA ASSISTED LIVING FACILITY ABUSE & NEGLECT
This ALF lawsuit was brought by the granddaughter of a 99-year-old woman who fell 11 times during her 29-day stay in the defendant’s ALF. The plaintiff alleged violations of Florida’s Assisted Living Facilities Act. Specifically, the lawsuit alleged that the defendant failed to provide fall precautions and failed to adequately supervise the resident, allowing her to fall repeatedly in the facility. The decedent sustained a cervical vertebra fracture in her last fall and was confined to bed until her death approximately seven months later. The defendant maintained that the decedent’s falls were unpreventable.
The plaintiff contended that over a 29-day residency at the defendant’s A.L.F., the elderly decedent fell 11 times and also suffered other unexplained injuries. The plaintiff alleged that the decedent’s repeated falls resulted from the defendant’s failure to implement any fall precautions, such as increased supervision, alarms or the placing of mats on the floors. She was transported to the hospital where she was diagnosed with a C-2 vertebra fracture as a result of the fall.
The decedent also suffered two black eyes and a gash over her nose in the fall, according to evidence offered. Because of the decedent’s advanced age, her physician advised that surgery was not a viable option. Thus, the decedent remained in hospitals and nursing homes for seven months and was required to wear a neck brace, to immobilize her cervical spine, until her ultimate death. The plaintiff contended that, during the seven months prior to her death, the decedent suffered the development and deterioration of pressure ulcers. The plaintiff claimed $145,828 in past medical expenses and sought punitive damages, as well as compensatory damages from the defendant.
The Assisted Living Facility argued that the decedent’s falls were a result of her deteriorated physical and mental condition and advanced age and were not the result of anything that the defendant’s staff did or failed to do. The defense maintained that the decedent was adequately supervised at all times and that her falls could not have been prevented.
The jury found the defendant was negligent and also that it violated Florida Statute section 429, also referred to as the Assisted Living Facility Act. The plaintiff was awarded $2,395,828 in damages comprised of $145,828 in past medical expenses; $750,000 in compensatory damages and $1,500,000 in punitive damages.
PEOPLE AND PARTIES:
Plaintiff: The Estate of Tremblay
Defendant: Hillsborough Management d/b/a Living Legends Retirement Center
Plaintiff’s family medicine expert: Lee Alan Fischer from West Palm Beach, FL.
Plaintiff’s nursing expert: Cynthia Oram from Fort Myers, FL.
Defendant’s internal medicine expert: Kenneth Homer from Oakland Park, FL.
Defendant’s nursing expert: Darla Ura from Atlanta, GA.
Plaintiff’s attorney: William Dean and Michael Rotundo
Presiding Judge: John J. Murphy
TOPIC: ASSISTED LIVING NEGLIGENCE & VIOLATION OF RESIDENT’S RIGHTS UNDER CH. 429.
Verdict: $922,665 for Plaintiff ($900,000 – violation of rights under Chapter 429, Florida Statutes; $22,665 – medical expenses).
NEGLIGENCE: FLORIDA ASSISTED LIVING FACILITY ABUSE & NEGLECT
NATURE OF INJURY: Decedent developed deep, infected Stage 4 bedsores, severe bruising, multiple skin tears, severe dehydration, and weight loss. Plaintiff’s expert testified that these conditions caused his passing away. Decedent was a resident of Defendant’s Wyndham Lakes Retirement Village (“Wyndham Lakes”), a Jacksonville, Florida Assisted Living Facility. The Estate brought this cause of action alleging violations of Ch. 429 resident rights. The decedent was only a resident of the ALF for 17 days, yet he was neglected and developed multiple bedsores (stage 4) and was severely malnourished. The ALF also did not allow the family to see the patient at certain times. Allegedly due to his injuries, the victim was hospitalized and died a month after his discharge from Wyndham Lakes.
PEOPLE AND PARTIES:
Plaintiff: The Estate of Sherburne
Defendant: Wy-Lak Partners Limited, d/b/a Wyndham Lakes Retirement Village
Plaintiff’s family medicine expert: Dr. Richard Coker
Plaintiff’s nursing expert: Unknown.
Defense attorney: William Stone
Plaintiff’s attorney: Peek & Cobb
Presiding Judge: Michael Weatherby
Outcome: Plaintiff Verdict
Total Verdict: $223,893
Pre-Trial Demand: $95,000
Pre-Trial Defense Offer: $5,000
PRIMARY INJURY: Burn to Leg in Assisted Living Facility
NEGLIGENCE: FLORIDA ASSISTED LIVING FACILITY ABUSE & NEGLECT
Medical Bills: $23,893
Pain and Suffering: $200,000
FACTS: An 80-year-old female suffered serious second degree burns and scalding injuries to her thigh when hot coffee spilled onto her leg. The Chapter 429 ALF rights violations included that the facility did not use properly maintained coffee pots and that the ALF employees left the hot coffee to close to vulnerable residents. The assisted living facility denied the negligence and claimed that the injury was unforeseeable, and therefore could not be reasonably prevented.
PEOPLE AND PARTIES:
Defendant: St. Johns Terrace Homes
SUMMARY:Result: $60 million dollars in compensatory damages and $140 million dollars in punitive damages.
VIOLATION OF FLORIDA’S RESIDENTS’ RIGHTS
Mrs. Nunziata, a 92 year old resident of the facility, suffered from dementia. She required human assistance to be transported around the facility and was in a wheelchair. Her confusion made her prone to wandering and elopement.
The resident was able to open a stairway door. While seat-belted into her wheelchair, Mrs. Nunziata suffered a fall down a flight of cement stairs in the fire escape stairway, resulting in her wrongful death.
Upon investigating the fall death, multiple failures were found. Due to her wandering risk, staff provided a personal alarm on Mrs. Nunziata, a wheelchair alarm and an alarm on the stairwell door. The facility’s numerous alarm systems all failed, or were turned off. The resident also had two prior attempts that day to go through the stairwell door.
The case was undefended since 2010. The jury deliberated and issued a verdict within a four hour period.
Florida Courts Recognize the ‘Special Duty’ Owed by A.L.F.’s to their Residents
A landmark Assisted Living Facility negligence lawsuit is the 2001 case of Estate of Selvin v. DMC Regency. In the Selvin case, an elderly ALF resident was allowed to wander out of the facility and drowned in a nearby canal that touched the facility’s property. The negligence allegations against the ALF were twofold: 1) Mr. Selvin, at 93 years old with dementia, should not have been able to exit the facility alone, and 2) the ALF should have constructed a fence around the perimeter of its property to keep its confused residents from wandering into the canal.
Florida A.L.F.’s are More Than Just Landlords
The defense argued that the ALF had no duty to do either of these things, and compared its relationship with the deceased like that of a ‘landlord and tenant.’ The assisted living facility abuse lawyer cited Florida case law that holds that a landlord is under no duty to prevent its tenants from a exiting into a canal, and attempted to extend that logic to an Assisted Living Facility. Shockingly, the trial court agreed with the ALF lawyer and granted directed verdict, meaning the matter could not go before a jury.
The attorney for the victim’s family appealed the ruling to Florida’s Fourth District Court of Appeal. The higher court reversed the lower court, holding that the duties owed by a Florida ALF to its resident are much more than the duty owed by a typical landlord to its tenant. Their reversal of the trial court is immensely important, because it sent a message to all courts in Florida that an ALF owes a special duty to its residents, well beyond that of a landlord-tenant relationship.
ALF’s Must Provide “Protection From Ordinary Risks of Everyday Life” to Residents
The appellate court continued in its opinion, holding that Florida assisted living facilities must provide special protections for its residents.
“Florida, like other jurisdictions, recognizes that a legal duty will arise whenever a human endeavor creates a generalized foreseeable risk of harming others.” McCain v. Florida Power. The Court continued: “Each defendant who creates a risk is required to exercise prudent foresight whenever others may be injured as a result. This requirement of reasonable, general foresight is the core of the duty element. For these same reasons, duty exists as a matter of law and is not a factual question for the jury to decide: Duty is the standard of conduct given to the jury for gauging the defendant’s factual conduct. As a corollary, the trial and appellate courts cannot find a lack of duty if a foreseeable zone of risk more likely than not was created by the defendant.” McCain, 593 So. 2d at 503. McCain emphasized that “as to duty, the proper inquiry for the reviewing appellate court is whether the defendant’s conduct created a foreseeable zone of risk, not whether the defendant could foresee the specific injury that actually occurred.” See id. at 504.
The appellate court reversed the directed verdict in favor of the A.L.F., recognizing a special duty owed to elderly A.L.F. residents:
There is also a fundamental distinction about the residents in assisted living facilities that is not true of the general public. Unlike people who choose to live in single family homes, the residents of this assisted living facility have their home there because they must. They have been forced by the afflictions of age, by deteriorating cognitive and mental acuity as well as physical decline, to give up their conventional homes, apartments and condominiums they had chosen as permanent places of residence when they were active and able…In short they have turned to assisted living facilities not in the same way that the general public chooses ordinary homes-for simple shelter-or to visit parks and recreation areas, but instead for protection from the ordinary risks of everyday life associated with the steady decline in their own abilities to look after themselves. What plaintiff appears to claim is that this facility failed to exercise due care in the single thing-the sole function-that made him seek out such a facility.
Selin, 807 So. 2d at 681 The Fourth District Court of Appeal’s recognition of this special relationship was extended in subsequent cases.
FL Assisted Living Facility Abuse Questions?
If you have questions about your potential Florida ALF abuse lawsuit, call our lawyers today for a free, no obligation consultation. We can be reached at 1-888-375-9998.