Thanks to innovations in healthcare, public sanitation, vaccination, and many other important disciplines, Americans are living longer than ever. This also, however, raises many important questions about the needs of an aging population. Longer lifespans have led to the need for more healthcare and assisted living services amongst the elderly population of Charleston. Families and residents of nursing homes must place great trust in staff members to meet even the most basic of daily needs.
Many assisted living facilities work hard to provide their residents with quality care. Others, unfortunately, do not. When a resident is injured through the neglect of a facility or healthcare provider, they have legal right to be compensated for the injuries and financial losses that occur as a result of that negligence. An experienced Charleston personal injury attorney can help injury victims hold negligent facilities accountable for their dangerous conduct to prevent other innocent residents from injury.
Nursing Homes Are Liable for the Negligent Actions of Their Employees
Employers are legally responsible (“liable”) for the negligent acts committed by employees on the job. As a result, a nursing home can be liable for medical malpractice committed by its staff doctors, unsafe transportation provided by its orderlies, or neglect by nurses and floor staff. Assisted living facilities can also be held liable for their own negligence. A nursing home that does not properly screen prospective employees before hiring, does not offer its employees sufficient training or does not adequately supervise employees to prevent neglect can often be found negligent. Rather than relying on vicarious liability through the acts of an employee, these claims place direct liability on the facility itself.
Failure to meet the resident’s basic needs can lead to criminal liability for violation of elder abuse statutes, civil liability for negligence, and contractual liability for failure to meet the terms of the agreement between the resident and facility. It can also lead to administrative consequences, such as the revocation of a business or healthcare license, or fines from healthcare inspectors.
Nursing Home Neglect Puts Vulnerable Residents in Danger
Residents of assisted living facilities are among the most vulnerable of South Carolina resident. They must rely on others for healthcare, mobility, grooming, medication, and other most basic functions.
Nursing home neglect has real consequences for real South Carolinians. The Independent Mail reports that Orianna Health Systems (a company that manages assisted living facilities across the South and in South Carolina) filed for bankruptcy in March 2018. This puts the fate of 13 assisted living facilities and hundreds of residents in jeopardy. Of even greater concern is the reason the company filed for bankruptcy. As a result of a 2013 merger, Orianna assumed responsibility for about 40 lawsuits. It paid $4.46 million to settle claims resulting from the deaths of 20 residents. The company also incurred nearly half a million dollars in fines as the result of 26 violations cited by the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services.
And in nearby Carthage, North Carolina, another assisted living facility faces investigation after the release of footage of questionable conduct by its employees. The Pilot reports that a former employee recorded footage of a medical technician slumped over, either asleep or sedated, while on duty in the facility’s Alzheimer’s unit. An unattended pharmacy bag is visible near the unconscious employee.
Sadly, this is not the only incident at the facility that has prompted an investigation. Carthage Police report that they have not yet found any criminal violations, but are further investigating issues that fall under the civil jurisdiction of agencies such as the state’s Department of Social Services or Department of Health and Human Resources. The former employee has also posted photos of stained furniture, overflowing wastebaskets, and a used adult diaper lying on the floor.
The Legal Resources Available to Victims of Nursing Home Neglect
There are many different ways in which victims and their families can fight back against nursing home neglect. The law has placed special criminal penalties upon those who commit a physical, sexual, or financial abuse of elderly victims. (See the Omnibus Adult Protection Act, Section 43-35-5 through 45-35-595 of the South Carolina Code of Laws.)
The first line of defense for an elder abuse victim is, therefore, local law enforcement. These agencies have an obligation to investigate allegations of neglect or abuse and determine whether any crimes have occurred. If so, the victim is afforded legal rights as the victim of a crime. These include the right to be present at hearings and to provide a written statement about the impact of the crime upon them. Victims may also have the right to obtain a criminal restitution order against the defendant for the financial losses they have sustained as a result of the crime.
Even when elder neglect does not constitute a prosecutable crime, victims have civil and administrative remedies. Civil remedies include lawsuits against the facility, its owners, and managers for allowing neglect to occur. Administrative remedies include reports to licensing agencies (such as social services or public health departments) with the authority to revoke a facility’s license to operate. Both civil and administrative remedies help protect other innocent victims from being harmed. They also hold negligent facilities accountable for the damage they cause.
The right course of action will be determined by the specific facts of a victim’s situation. In any event, it is important to do something. Facilities that are allowed to commit unpunished neglect will continue to harm innocent residents. Many of them are even able to profit off taxpayer funds by billing Medicare or Medicaid programs for their negligent services. These acts harm society as a whole—not just the immediate victims who receive neglectful care. Neglectful nursing home staff members, managers who ignore their employees’ neglect, and those who profit off of nursing home neglect must all be held responsible for their complicity.
The Hughey Law Firm protects Charleston nursing home residents by holding assisted living facilities accountable for their negligence. Call (843) 881-8644or write to us online to schedule your free consultation.