Tennessee Politicians’ Price Tag on Nursing Home Abuse

As I write, your Tennessee representatives in Nashville are hearing arguments for putting limits to the amount of monetary awards clients can receive in Tennessee nursing home abuse lawsuits. Proponents are using the same rhetoric as they use elsewhere, ignoring nursing home deaths, neglect, and physical abuse in Tennessee nursing homes, that makes the abuser (the negligent nursing home) the victim.

Those wanting to limit compensation for Tennessee nursing home abuse and neglect lawsuits note that last year Tennessee nursing homes had the highest liability in the nation due to juries (of one’s peers) awarding too much money to those who were injured. They want to limit the decision of citizens and reduce the culpability of nursing homes.

Their solution to these “rampant” nursing home abuse lawsuits? Not better service and nursing home care, not a minimum limit on the amount nursing home abuse or neglect lawsuits should receive that would scare caregivers into proper employment and oversight practices–no, neither of these.

Their solution?

Put a set price on what your mother or father’s life is worth, what bedsores are worth, what sexual abuse is worth. Such price tags have only one purpose: Let the nursing homes guilty of abuse calculate how they can still turn a profit while allowing abuse and neglect and the subsequent occasional losses in Tennessee court.

This legislation, introduced yesterday by state Senator Jim Tracy (R-Shelbyville) and Rep. Randy Rinks (D-Savannah), aims to place nursing home abuse lawsuits under the same restrictions as Tennessee’s medical malpractice and workers comp lawsuits, thereby limiting plaintiff’s attorneys’ fees and awards for “non-economic losses” and putative damages.

The effect of such limits is to discourage Tennessee personal injury attorneys from taking nursing home abuse/neglect cases. Reducing the amounts the injured or their survivors may recover has the direct effect of reducing the quality of the plaintiff’s lawyers representing nursing home cases.

Expert testimony and case preparations are expensive, and many dedicated nursing home abuse attorneys such as myself pay these costs out-of-pocket. While nursing homes can afford high-priced defense lawyers’ fees, most of my injured clients cannot. Instead, I earn a small portion of what my clients are awarded for their or their loved one’s injuries and other damages. I then reinvest this money to be able to afford to take on the next series Tennessee nursing home abuse cases.

Meanwhile, in Ohio, where state law limits the recoveries in nursing home lawsuits, a nightshift nurse has been charged this week with raping a partially paralyzed nursing home resident and 13 other patients (though he claims to have abused nearly 100 men and women since the 1980s). These 14 accounts are those that can be verified through a review of the nursing home medical records, suggesting that evidence for this abuse existed and the nursing home is likely at fault.

Should Tennessee nursing home residents be limited like these Ohio abused nursing home residents in the recovery of their “non-economic losses”? I don’t believe that’s a question I have to answer, though it’s a question Tennessee lawmakers are hoping you won’t ask. Whever you stand let your legislature know. You can contact them at http://www.legislature.state.tn.us/.

If you suspect a loved one to be a victim of a nursing home abuse or neglect in a Nashville nursing home or any facilitated care facility in Tennessee, contact me, Jim Higgins, attorney-at-law for a free consultation. HHP’s toll-free nursing home abuse hotline is 800.705.2121 or you can fill out our TN nursing home abuse/neglect form.

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