Articles Posted in Nursing Home Issues

Florida federal and state laws govern nursing home health and safety guidelines and regulations. A majority of the rules are designed to ensure that vulnerable individuals living at these long-term care facilities (LTCF) receive the appropriate and critical care that they deserve. As these facilities become more popular, so do their indiscretions and failure to abide by essential health and safety rules. The Centers for Disease Control (CDC) reports that an estimated 1 to 3 million life-threatening illnesses occur yearly at LTCFs. Many of these illnesses are a result of fast-spreading infections that overcome the residents at these institutions.

Most recently, the spread of COVID-19, or the novel coronavirus, has shed light on how quickly a seemingly common respiratory infection can take over and become deadly. These outbreaks can decimate resident populations in LTCFs. A recent report indicates that LTCFs are the prime place for outbreaks for infectious diseases. Most LTCF residents have chronic conditions and impairments that make them more inclined to develop infections. Many of the residents at these facilities share air, food, water, and medical treatment, which accelerates the introduction and transmission of infectious agents. This, combined with the residents’ length of stay, delayed diagnosis, and inefficient infection control, allow the propagation of these deadly infections. Although, nursing homes rarely supply authorities with the exact rates of disease transmission, the CDC warns that once these pathogens are introduced into an enclosed environment, such as a nursing home, the results can be deadly.

Infectious diseases in these environments are frequent and severe, and as such, the CDC provides facilities with regulations to limit the spread of disease. All medical providers and staff at these facilities must receive proper and ongoing safety and hygiene training. This training provides individuals with crucial skills that are necessary for preventing the spread of disease. It includes, proper handwashing techniques, guidelines for hygiene in-between residents, and how to appropriately wear personal protective equipment. Medical personnel and LTCF staff that fail to abide by these rules may be liable for injuries that their residents suffer.

An appellate court recently issued an opinion regarding punitive damages in a Florida nursing home abuse case. The appeal arose from a negligence and wrongful death lawsuit filed by a nursing home resident’s family. The family amended their lawsuit to include a claim of punitive damages against the facility. The nursing home claimed that it was not liable for punitive damages under Florida law.

There are two main types of damages that Florida personal injury victims can obtain, compensatory and punitive. As the name suggests, compensatory damages are awarded to a plaintiff to compensate them for losses that they suffered because of their injuries. Typically, this includes compensation amounts for medical bills, losses related to changed plans, lost wages, losses of support, and pain and suffering. Unlike compensatory damages, punitive damages are awarded solely to punish the defendant’s reprehensible behavior.

Plaintiffs often seek punitive damages after they suffered injuries because of a defendant’s egregious behavior. In response to the growing number of nursing home abuse cases, Florida enacted a specific provision for punitive damages in nursing home negligence lawsuits. Under Florida law, plaintiffs must establish that the defendant’s actions were grossly negligent. Gross negligence occurs when a defendant’s conduct was so reckless or lacking in care that it amounted to a conscious disregard or indifference to the life, safety, or rights of individuals that are exposed to their conduct.

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