Tuesday, February 7, 2012

PA House Passes Appalling Legislation to Shield Nursing Homes from Liability for Misconduct and Neglect

Seniors in Long Term Care Facilities Deserve Meaningful Accountability
for the Quality of their Care

As an organization that advocates for the quality of life of Pennsylvania Seniors, the PA Alliance for Retired Americans is deeply concerned with the provisions in House Bill 1907, which would shield nursing homes with negligent caregivers from any meaningful accountability.  This legislation would strip some of our most vulnerable seniors of their right to advocate for themselves in a meaningful way.  Overall, HB 1907 would be a large step backwards in the quality of care in our state’s nursing homes.

Pennsylvania Alliance President Jean Friday issued the following statement:

“House Bill 1907 would limit punitive damages against long-term care facilities and their employees to 200% of compensatory damages.  Imagine for a moment that a loved one in your family was neglected in such a facility. If a suit was brought to hold that facility accountable, how much really could be expected in the form of compensatory damages?  A few additional medical bills are likely to be the only compensatory damages awarded.  Capping punitive damages at 200% of those additional medical bills is woefully inadequate.  The amount of money would be so insignificant as to make such suits exercises in futility.  This shield from punitive damages leaves nursing home operators and caregivers with no legal or financial incentive to strive for excellent care.  Seniors in nursing homes, and their loved ones, deserve better piece of mind.  They deserve to know that the law will protect them from misconduct and punish the negligent!

“Supporters of House Bill 1907 will no doubt point out that the damage cap is lifted when ‘intentional’ misconduct is proven.  However, we find this to be of almost no solace.  Proving caregivers to be negligent is one thing.  How on earth would ‘intentional’ negligence be proven?  Would we need tape recordings of caregivers discussing their future misconduct?  How about memos from nursing home ownership detailing preferred misconduct methods?  The bill sets a standard that is absolutely ridiculous for abused seniors and their loved ones to exact real justice.

“Seniors are sorely disappointed that a small majority of State House members voted to pass this bill.  We hope that the State Senate has the good sense to protect seniors, instead of their abusers.  They should make sure that this legislation never reaches the Governor.”

The PA Alliance for Retired Americans has 300,000 members and 142 local affiliates in Pennsylvania.  For more information, contact Adam Swope in our Harrisburg office at aswope@retiredamericans.org202-341-7821 or visit www.pennretiredamericans.org.

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