Pennsylvania Court Backs Victims of Nursing Home Abuse

In a recent unanimous decision, the Pennsylvania Superior Court ruled that nursing homes can be held liable for corporate negligence.

The three-judge panel came down on the side of victims of nursing home abuse and negligence by ruling that nursing homes are similar to HMOs and hospitals, which can already be held corporately liable for harmful actions.

According to the Legal Intelligencer, the ruling came in Scampone v. Grane Healthcare Co., in which a claim was filed against the Highland Park Care Center nursing home, as well as the company that managed the nursing home, Grane Healthcare.

The lawsuit stated that an elderly woman had died of a heart attack at Highland Park Care Center in 2004. According to the suit, she had been diagnosed with a urinary tract infection two months before she died; she was diagnosed with malnutrition, dehydration and bed sores two weeks before dying.

Chronic Understaffing Prevents Adequate Care

During the trial, witnesses gave evidence that the nursing home was persistently understaffed, preventing employees from providing adequate care to the elderly woman. The understaffing resulted in substandard care and employee cover-ups of their inability to do basic tasks for residents, such as providing sufficient water and food.

A jury found Highland liable for the woman's death and awarded her son $193,500. He appealed the decision, however, arguing that the trial court had made a mistake by omitting Grane from the suit, thereby shielding it from liability.

The Superior Court held that Grane could be held liable because it had corporate control over Highland, and that Highland functioned much as a hospital does, responsible for providing daily round-the-clock health care.

Justice for Victims and Their Families

The court's decision is likely to have a positive effect on nursing home residents, with care improving in those facilities where it has been substandard since corporations will want to avoid potentially expensive damages to victims of nursing home neglect and abuse. In those nursing homes where care doesn't improve, and patients are harmed by negligence or abuse, victims and their families will be able to seek compensation for damages and punishment for those who violate or hurt vulnerable, elderly loved ones.

If a member of your family has been harmed in a Pittsburgh or Pennsylvania area nursing home, contact a personal injury lawyer experienced in matters of nursing home neglect and abuse for an evaluation of the facts in the case.