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Elder Advocates Protest Florida Bill That Shields Nursing Home Investors From Lawsuits
According to The Tampa Bay Times, investors in Florida nursing homes would be shielded from lawsuits when residents are abused or neglected under new provisions authorized in a bill the Florida House sent to the governor on April 23. The bill, SB 670, was approved 109-7 after passing in the Senate; however, the bill has been vigorously opposed by elder advocates.
The National Organization for Women Florida Chapter, the Florida Alliance for Retired Americans and union groups representing the health care workers in nursing homes are among the groups that warned the measure will hurt residents of nursing homes and subject staff members to lawsuits while owners are shielded.
“The Florida Legislature just handed the nursing home industry a ‘get out of jail free card’ in cases of abuse or neglect,” said Brian Lee, director of Families for Better Care, a nonprofit advocate for senior rights. “If enacted, the nefarious operators, those who cut staffing and care budgets just to maximize profits, will be exonerated from all wrongdoing.”
Lee predicted that nursing homes will take advantage of this new shield on liability and warned that “care that’s bad now is about to get a whole lot worse.”
The bill would prevent “passive investors” from being named in a lawsuit unless a court determines they had an active role. Elder advocates contend that the bill is written too broadly to describe who is considered a passive investor, and restricts discovery in such a way that it will make it more difficult to convince a judge that there is a link between the investor and the nursing home. Opposers of the bill say trial lawyers will file more frequent lawsuits that produce smaller settlements, while the industry gets a stronger shield against reporting how it spends its money.
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