NCPA - National Center for Policy Analysis

Suing Nursing Homes Is A Growth Industry

June 19, 2000

Critics say lawyers are preying on the guilt baby boomers feel when they must put Mom or Dad into a nursing home. But lawyers charge that conditions in nursing homes are deteriorating, and suits against homes are rapidly escalating.

The growth in suits could hardly come at a worse time for nursing homes. The industry is already struggling with financial difficulties, increasingly expensive liability insurance and staff shortages -- the last the result of traditionally low pay and more attractive jobs elsewhere.

  • The number of claims against nursing homes nationally has increased 9 percent each year for five years -- while the average dollar amount of claims has risen from $64,015 to $112,351, according to a study by Aon Worldwide Actuarial Solutions.
  • In Florida, where a unique state law makes it easier to sue homes, claims jumped 20 percent last year.
  • Lawyers in Florida cases need not prove medical malpractice against nursing homes -- only needing to establish either abuse or violations of patients rights.
  • But Alabama lawmakers recently voted to require that cases against nursing homes be brought under the state's malpractice laws -- not other forms of tort law.

Observers say that Florida is exporting lawyers to pursue the nursing home industry in such states as Texas, Alabama and Tennessee.

Source: Julie Appleby, "Litigation Grows in Ailing Nursing Home Industry," USA Today, June 19, 2000.


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