Florida Senate Panel Passes Bill to Strengthen Nursing Home Lawsuit Protections

Posted on April 8, 2013

The Florida Senate Judiciary Committee, by a seven-two vote, has passed a senate bill (SB 1384), which would make it more difficult to seek punitive damages when suing nursing homes.

Under SB 1384, a judge would be needed to give his or her permission before a plaintiff can seek punitive damages.  Also the judge would be required for a more detailed hearing to look at the evidence presented to see if the claim is admissible. Supporters of the bill contend that evidence offered for punitive damages claims is often hearsay and can lead to “frivolous” lawsuits.

A woman who testified before the senate panel about her elderly mother’s rape at the hands of another patient indicated that she thought the bill, as it was being presented, was a gift to out-of-state corporations that own nursing homes. In her mother’s case, the nursing home was ordered to pay $750,000 in damages.  She claims that the damages were never paid.

While the portion of the bill that would have made it even tougher to sue a nursing home’s corporate parent was removed, the provision that makes it more difficult to sue for punitive damages remained.

According to one opponent of the bill, who cited a 2001 change in the law that required 50 percent of nursing home-related punitive damages to go into a state trust fund, passing this bill would add to an already onerous process that sets the bar too high in Florida. The opponent claims the 2001 change was already a powerful “disincentive” for seeking punitive damages and there has not been one successful claim for punitive damages against a nursing home since.

The bill must hurdle two more senate committees before all is said and done.

The Jacksonville nursing home abuse attorneys at Farah & Farah will be following the progress of this bill. Nursing homes are entrusted with the care of some of our most vulnerable citizens, and they should be held accountable for negligent actions. If you believe a loved one has been the victim of nursing home abuse or neglect, contact Farah & Farah at (800) 533-3555 or online. Your consultation is free and confidential.

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