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Rigorous Penalty System Leads to More Fines for Pennsylvania Nursing Homes

Published on May 23, 2017 at 6:27 pm in Nursing Home Abuse.

In previous years, the Pennsylvania Department of Health has been rather lax in its penalty system regarding complaints of substandard and negligent care in nursing homes. However, within the first four months of this year, there has been a drastic change. In fact, the state has exacted more fines during this period than the previous three years combined, hinting at a much-needed change in how the industry’s failings are handled.

While it is promising to see substandard nursing care finally being addressed, it is still to be seen if improved regulations and strict enforcement of fines will improve the state’s 700 nursing homes. A spokesman for the industry claimed these heavy sanctions would only result in financial strain on operators, rather than contribute to better outcomes for nursing home residents.

For too long, nursing homes were allowed to provide poor care, resulting in an epidemic of injuries and death to nursing home residents across the state of Pennsylvania, most of which were all preventable and easy to avoid through more attentive treatment. Without the fear of penalties looming over them, nursing home operators and staff were not inclined to rectify their shortcomings. That is, until now.

The total thus far for the first four months of fines amounts to about $796,750. For the three years that ended December 31st, records show fines totaling up to $639,500. These numbers do not include federal fines recommended by the state, which are also usually more substantial. State surveyors sanctioned 86 facilities so far, whereas only 72 were sanctioned last year, and 47 in 2014 and 2015 combined. These numbers make it clear that things are changing, even if it is still unclear where these changes will lead.

Current Administration to Lift Ban on Nursing Home Arbitration Clauses

Published on May 5, 2017 at 6:35 pm in Nursing Home Abuse.

There are more than 2 million cases of elder abuse every year, and those are only the cases that are reported. One out of every 10 people will experience some form of elder abuse. Because families often don’t have the time or resources to devote to the full-time care that seniors sometimes need, they depend on skilled nursing facilities to provide help where they can’t. When skilled nursing facilities care for elderly people, they and their friends and relatives are placing their trust in these businesses. When that trust is broken, it is usually the result of negligence or outright abuse of the elderly person.

Because the senior population has started to grow as more baby boomers continue to age, big corporations have taken to buying or starting skilled nursing facilities. Around 70% of all skilled nursing facilities are run by for-profit companies, and some of them are being purchased by Wall Street investment firms. Unsurprisingly, the new administration has taken note of another way it can assist hedge funds and banks.

In 2016, the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services enacted a policy that said nursing homes would no longer receive federal funding if they used forced arbitration clauses in their contracts. Forced arbitration clauses are contract terms preventing people from suing a facility, no matter what laws it breaks. Anyone harmed by illegal acts in these institutions can only bring cases to private arbitrators, who are generally beholden to the nursing homes or the corporations that own them.

Now, the current administration is proposing to lift the ban on forced arbitration clauses. Now, if a nursing home abuses a senior, the family can use the public court system to seek justice. If the ban is lifted, nursing homes benefit from the secretive system of arbitration, which isn’t open to the public, press, or regulators. It also allows gag orders in the form of confidentiality provisions, allowing them to hide their crimes easily.

HR Bill 1215 Jeopardizes Justice in Nursing Home Abuse Cases

Published on Apr 12, 2017 at 6:37 pm in Nursing Home Abuse.

Juries typically recognize that nursing home abuse causes severe consequences and permanent emotional scarring, and occurs due to preventable mistakes or intentional harm. As a result, some cases close with a seven-figure award amount that the harmed elder and their family absolutely deserves. A recently proposed bill could counteract progress, though, by seriously limiting how much a plaintiff can collect in noneconomic damages for successful nursing home abuse claims.

HR Bill 1215, which is being advertised as the “Protecting Access to Care Act of 2017,” would limit noneconomic damages in nursing home abuse cases to just $250,000, regardless of the details of the case. The number of victims, the extent of the harm, and the intent of the abuser would all be irrelevant if this bill is allowed to pass. Even in cases where an elder is sexually abused repeatedly, the noneconomic cap would be just $250,000.

Sexual Abuse in Nursing Homes: An Unchecked Epidemic

Published on Feb 22, 2017 at 6:47 pm in Nursing Home Abuse.

Nursing home abuse and neglect can take many forms, including the familiar types of wrongdoing such as physical and emotional abuse, neglecting basic needs, and financial exploitation. While families may be generally aware of these issues when choosing an assisted care facility for their elderly loved one, few give a second thought to another more sinister and inexcusable type of abuse: sexual assault.

While the inability or unwillingness of the elderly to speak out about sexual assault makes it inherently difficult to determine the true number of sexual abuse victims in American nursing homes, a recent investigative analysis by CNN has found that the issue is more common than most would believe, and that the procedures in place that should protect victims often fail to do so.

At Shrager & Sachs, our Philadelphia nursing home abuse attorneys have extensive experience representing elderly victims and their loved ones after they were harmed by substandard care, negligence, and abuse at nursing homes – and we have recovered millions of dollars in compensation on their behalves. Having worked many of these cases, we understand the difficulties of identifying abuse, as well as the challenges of holding nursing home facilities and staff accountable.

According to CNN, the difficulty of identifying sexual abuse in nursing homes and assisted living facilities can be far more troublesome than recognizing the signs of other forms of abuse. Additionally, when allegations were made by residents, nursing homes, law enforcement, and even government officials often failed to thoroughly investigate and address issues.

Protect Yourself from Forced Arbitration Clauses

Published on Dec 6, 2016 at 7:30 pm in Nursing Home Abuse.

Mobile phones, nursing homes, credit cards, and now bank accounts that you never even agreed to have opened in your name!? Corporate America is using forced arbitration clauses buried on many of the contracts you agree to every day to close the courthouse door in your face. These oppressive “fine print” clauses, which most people never read, are potent tools used to limit your right to sue and effectively recover against big corporations. Why do they use these clauses?

  1. Because they win far more often in front of the arbitrators who get huge volumes of business arbitrating these cases
  2. Because people cannot afford to pay for a private judicial system (arbitration costs money unlike the free and open court system)
  3. Because the results of arbitrations are secret and corporations won’t suffer bad publicity regardless of the outcome
  4. All of the above.

If you guessed “D”, you are absolutely correct. The only way to force Wells Fargo to do the right thing and live up to the promise they have made to Congress is for every consumer to insist on the right to proceed in court instead of being buried in a private arbitration system. If you are a Wells Fargo customer, tell them that you reject any arbitration clause on your account. If they will not agree to strike the clause, MOVE YOUR ACCOUNT!

If you have any questions regarding these issues or believe you have become a victim of forced arbitration clauses, contact our legal team at Shrager, Spivey & Sachs!

Identifying Nursing Home Abuse & Neglect Warning Signs

Published on Aug 29, 2016 at 8:01 pm in Nursing Home Abuse.

As elders become physically and mentally incapable of caring for themselves, many people put their elderly loved ones into a nursing home. Nursing homes are designed to provide medical care and various forms of therapy so that the occupants of that nursing home are as healthy as possible despite ages and conditions. Majority of occupants in nursing homes do not need hospital care, but need to be watched over and tended to several times a day. Oftentimes, unfortunately, many nursing homes fail to provide the appropriate services,committing acts of abuse and neglect, which may cause detrimental outcomes for elderly patients.

The Definition of Abuse:

  • The Federal nursing home regulations define abuse as a deliberate infliction, unnecessary confinement, intimidation, deprivation of care and service, or punishments that cause physical harm, pain, and mental anguish.

The Definition of Neglect:

  • The Federal nursing home regulations define neglect as a failure to provide a resident with the necessary care and service that ensure the resident freedom from harm, pain, and emotional distress.

The Beginning of a New Formation of Nursing Home Regulations

Published on Aug 7, 2015 at 8:24 pm in Nursing Home Abuse.

After the Attorney General’s Office filed a lawsuit against Golden Gate National Senior Care due to alleged inadequate care, poorly trained staff members, and not enough staff members in 14 different nursing home facilities, the Auditor General and the Department of Health (DOH) formed a task force to review the state regulations of these facilities over a six-month period.

Currently, the DOH is permitted to place provisional statuses on facilities not performing up to par. During this period, the nursing home is able to operate but must be monitored by the DOH while the facility makes improvements to ensure the health and safety of residents. In addition, the DOH is able to ban admissions, initiate civil penalties, and revoke the nursing home’s license. Due to the increase in nursing home safety concerns over the last decade, the task force has been given the responsibility to reform regulations so that nursing homes are forced to abide by stricter standards.

Seniors Medication Adherence: A Compounding Problem

Published on May 13, 2013 at 8:35 pm in Nursing Home Abuse.

More than half of seniors admit to not taking their medications as directed. For those living alone, this can be due to a variety of factors. For a senior living in a nursing home, this can be a result of poor oversight by the facility. Almost half of Americans age 65 years and older take at least five different prescription medications regularly, according to a recent study from Kelton Research. When a senior is taking a variety of medications in different dosages over an extended period of time, frequently they can make mistakes or miss a day.

When a senior moves into a nursing home or assisted living facility, it is usually because of a loss of independence resulting from declining health. So it’s more important to these individuals to take all of their medications as directed by their physicians and it’s up to the staff of the senior care facility to ensure this. All too often, we receive calls from loved ones detailing the injuries or worse that are a result of improper medication administration.

Elder Abuse a Growing Problem in Philadelphia, Nation

Published on Mar 6, 2013 at 8:36 pm in Nursing Home Abuse.

One of our areas of special focus arises from one of the greatest crimes against humanity: obtaining justice for elderly who are abused or neglected. We’ve all heard the horror stories and listened to friends struggling to find a great assisted living or nursing home facility for their parents or loved ones. Putting your trust in strangers to care for your aging family members is a daunting prospect. Because too often, the care they receive is sub-par or even criminal.

As reported in the Philadelphia Daily News on February 20th, “In Philadelphia and across the nation, elder abuse – physical, financial, sexual or by neglect – is a growing problem, yet it dwells in the shadows of the better-publicized crimes of child abuse and domestic abuse, advocates say.”

The Scampone Case and What It Means for You

Published on Jan 28, 2013 at 8:38 pm in Nursing Home Abuse.

The Pennsylvania Supreme Court has opened the door for the inquiry into the role of corporate parents all the way up the corporate chain of command after reviewing a landmark case in nursing home abuse. Scampone v. Highland Park Care Center, LLC was brought to court by Madeline Scampone’s son, Richard, who said his mother’s death was a result of substandard care from Highland Park Care Center, the nursing home in which she was residing. Mrs. Scampone was diagnosed with a urinary tract infection two months before her death, and was dehydrated and malnourished with bed sores upon her death. Witnesses at trial detailed the nursing home’s chronic under-staffing and a jury found Highland to be liable, awarding Richard Scampone $193,500. When the the state Supreme Court recently reviewed this case on appeal, the unanimous six-justice ruling stated that a nursing home may be held directly liable under a theory of corporate negligence by weighing five factors: the relationship between the parties, the social utility of the actor’s conduct, the nature of risk and foreseeability of harm, the consequences of imposing a duty upon an actor and the overall public interest in the proposed solution.

If you believe your loved one is experiencing negligence at his or her nursing home or assisted living facility, call our Philadelphia medical malpractice attorneys at (888) 899-0652.

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