HB 1029 and S 1304 Pose a Serious Threat to Florida’s Seniors
Florida has a long, ugly history of nursing home abuse. For decades, corporate-run nursing homes have prioritized profits over people and intentionally understaffed their facilities to make more money. Almost every Florida facility is chronically and deliberately staffed below the needs of the facility residents. The result has been carnage in Florida’s nursing homes.
Things are getting worse, not better. A recent February 2023 investigation found that serious state-issued violations in Florida’s nursing homes have nearly doubled since 2019. Further, during the pandemic, many Florida nursing homes changed ownership. Many new ownership companies have links to what investigative reporters have called the ‘Nursing Home Mafia‘, also known as the ‘Nursing Home Syndicate.’ This notorious group of nursing home owners out of New York and New Jersey has been accused of intentional understaffing, widespread neglect of residents, a pattern of citations for sub-standard care, human trafficking of staff from overseas, and systemic fraud.
How HB 1029 and S 1304 Give Florida Nursing Homes a License to Kill with Impunity
Amid this nursing home neglect epidemic, bewilderingly, lawmakers have proposed HB 1029 in the Florida House and S 1304, its Senate companion bill. This dangerous legislation would grant a license to kill Florida’s most vulnerable population with impunity.
Here is why.
HB 1029 brings seismic changes to Florida’s law on nursing home and assisted living wrongful death claims. Just about every elder abuse case in Florida is brought by the surviving adult children of the deceased elderly victim. Rarely is there a surviving spouse. However, HB 1029 requires a living spouse, or a child under the age of 25, to maintain a nursing home wrongful death claim. This would give immunity to Florida nursing homes and assisted living facilities when they kill vulnerable patients that do not have a living spouse. Under the proposed law, a nursing home could literally kill a patient and get away with it, scot-free, in about 90% of cases.
Florida’s Nursing Home Owners Need Accountability
Why give this troubled industry insulation from liability? Is this really the group we want to offer less scrutiny and accountability?
Nursing home owners use intentionally complex webs of corporate ownership to conceal true ownership. When you get past the corporate shell game, you learn that these shady nursing home owners do not even live here. This is not a native industry, like Big Citrus, Big Sugar, or Disney. These nursing home owners take money from taxpayers via Medicare and Medicaid, and syphon that money away from direct patient care in Florida up to a small but powerful ‘nursing home mafia’ in New York and New Jersey.
These powerful nursing home bosses only care about one thing; money. This is why they cut costs on patient care in Florida, but simultaneously spend so much to influence our statewide politicians here in Florida.
Nursing Home Wrongful Death Lawsuits are the Last Defense Against Systemic Nursing Home Abuse
Since money and profitability are the primary focus of these nursing home owners, nursing home wrongful death claims serve a vital role in deterring bad behavior. The potential of a wrongful death claim, when a nursing home negligently kills a resident, provides an incentive to improve the quality of care at facilities. This provides an economic incentive to increase staffing, create better policies and procedures, increase monitoring of residents, and strengthen communication with family members to avoid hurting residents (and thus getting sued).
A $500 AHCA fine from the State of Florida has no impact on care. It is merely a slap on the wrist. A wrongful death lawsuit offers an actual deterrent from harming residents in the future. If the company pays a $500,000 wrongful death settlement to a family for a deadly mistake, management actually investigates what happened and revises policy to ensure this does not happen again.
Money is the only thing that moves the meter with these vast nursing home corporations, so if you remove the financial deterrent of a wrongful death lawsuit, Florida nursing homes and assisted living facilities will become the Wild West. These corporations will get away with murder, and face zero accountability. Care will plummet to all time lows, and there will be no incentive to improve for these for-profit nursing homes. There will be no accountability for the inevitable trail of bodies left in the wake of this monumental shift in the law.
No Other State Has This Extreme Law
My firm handles elder abuse cases in many other states. No other state has a law that requires a nursing home or assisted living facility abuse victim be married or have a kid under 25 to have a wrongful death claim. It’s a ludicrous proposition that effectively bars these claims from being brought altogether.
Florida would be in a bizarre and sad category of its own if this legislation passes. This is obviously a special interest giveaway, bought and paid for by the New York nursing home bosses. This rule makes zero sense and suggests that adult children do not care about their parents. The sole rationale for this proposed law is to enrich the nursing home owners, and allow them to hurt our Florida elderly population without consequence.
Florida is a state full of seniors. We all get old. In fact, among persons age 57 to 61, 56 percent will stay in a nursing home at least one night during their lifetime. This is not a red or a blue issue. This is a bipartisan, American issue.
Special interest lobbyists for the nursing home industry are trying to sneak in a horribly unfair bill that would put Florida’s seniors in grave danger. We cannot let this happen.
Contact your state house member and tell them that Florida senior’s lives matter more than out of state megadonor money.
Michael Brevda is the managing partner of Senior Justice Law Firm, a Florida-based firm focused on nursing home abuse and neglect litigation. He can be reached at 888-375-9998 or by visiting https://seniorjustice.com/.« Previous PostNext Post »