A bill making its way through the Florida Legislature would make filing a wrongful death lawsuit against a nursing home or assisted living facility in the Sunshine State extremely difficult. House Bill 1029 and Senate Bill 1304 would only permit spouses and children under the age of 25 to recover damages in nursing home wrongful death claims. Nursing home residents of course rarely have children under the age of 25. Advocacy groups say the bill would make it almost impossible to hold nursing homes responsible in civil court for abuse and neglect.
The proposed law would also require wrongful death plaintiffs to find an expert who is willing to state in writing that their claims are based on reasonable grounds, and it would limit the kind of damages they can recover. The bill allows damages to cover expenses directly related to the death like medical bills and funeral costs, but it limits awards for pain and suffering.
Support from trade groups
The AARP says that it knows of no state in the country where only spouses and children under the age of 25 can file wrongful death lawsuits connected to nursing home abuse and neglect. Advocacy groups like the AARP are fiercely opposed to the proposed law, but industry organizations including the Florida Health Care Association support it. The number of lawsuits filed against nursing homes has surged in recent years, and so has the number of serious nursing home violations.
Canary in the coal mine
The lawmakers and groups supporting this bill believe that nursing homes are being sued more often because plaintiffs see them as soft targets. The worrying rise in nursing home abuse and neglect cases suggests that the increase in litigation is linked to falling standards and inadequate care. If this bill is passed and signed into law, life will be easier for nursing homes that abuse and neglect their residents and harder for families that want to hold them responsible.