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Florida Court Rejects Plaintiffs Request to Pursue Punitive Damages

The decision to put a loved one in a nursing home is undoubtedly a difficult one. When you finally make such a decision, you expect that your loved one will receive adequate care. Sadly, this does not always happen. In fact, nursing home negligence and abuse is quite common both in Florida and across the US. Whether you are a nursing home resident or your loved one has been injured while in the care of a nursing home facility, we are here to help. Our Miami nursing home negligence attorneys are devoted to protecting the rights of Florida clients. We know how overwhelming it can be dealing with a nursing home injury, but you can trust that we will focus on the legalities of your case so you can focus on moving forward.

In Carpenters Home Estates v. Sanders, the estate of a deceased woman filed a wrongful death lawsuit against the nursing home alleging that the nursing home’s negligence was the cause of the woman dying. Some time after the complaint was filed, the estate asked the court for leave to amend the complaint in order to add a claim for punitive damages. The trial court allowed the plaintiff to do so, and the defendant nursing home filed an appeal.

The appellate court reversed the trial court’s decision to permit the estate to pursue punitive damages, reasoning that when a plaintiff asks for leave to add a claim for punitive damages, the lower court is required to decide whether there is a showing of admissible evidence that provides a reasonable basis to recover such damages. A plaintiff, according to the court, can show this by establishing one of two things: direct liability or vicarious liability.

Direct liability can be established by showing that the defendant “actively and knowingly” took part in “intentional misconduct” or behavior that would constitute “gross negligence.” In order to show vicarious liability, the plaintiff is required to show that the employee or agent of the defendant nursing home took part in the above conduct and that an officer, director, or manager approved, sanctioned, or allowed the conduct in question.

Here, the court stated that the plaintiff proved neither direct liability nor vicarious liability. While the plaintiff offered evidence showing numerous appalling instances of staff providing substandard care, there was nothing to suggest that any of the staff members’ behavior could be attributed to the nursing home. The court further explained that were was no information to indicate that the nursing home administration failed to sufficiently train staff or misdirected them in any way. Therefore, while each of the staff members were negligent in their care of the woman, such negligence could not be attributed to the defendant nursing home.

The court determined that the trial court had failed to make sure that there was a reasonable basis, based on adequate evidence, to believe that plaintiff show by clear and convincing evidence that punitive damages were warranted in this case. As such, the lower court’s decision to permit the estate to seek punitive damages was reversed.

If you believe your loved one has been injured or the victim of wrongful death due to nursing home negligence, you may be entitled to compensation. At the Law Offices of Robert Dixon, our diligent Miami nursing home negligence attorneys understand how to collect evidence and build a strong case on your behalf. To speak to us in more detail about your case, contact us online or call us today at 1-877-499-HURT (4878).