Should Nursing Home Owners be Criminally Liable for Neglect?

Nursing home abuse and neglect lawyers in California often lament the state’s weak enforcement of bad nursing homes. The California Department of Public Health, due primarily to inadequate funding, rarely provides the strong oversight of California’s 1,200 or so licensed skilled nursing facilities. As a result, bad nursing homes operate with relative impunity, and those who screw up rarely suffer the consequences.

Apparently California is not alone. In Connecticut, the director of the state’s Department of Public Health said his unit is dangerously understaffed. He has only four investigators to oversee the state’s 231 certified nursing facilities, and told the Norwich Bulletin that if he had 10 more, he would have a lot more cases.

State Sen. Edith Prague has apparently had enough. She is set to re-introduce a bill that would make it easier to hold the owners of nursing homes criminally responsible for abuse and neglect of patients in their facilities. Under Prague’s bill, the state’s DPH would be required to include a notice in nursing home applications telling owners they could be held criminally liable for patient neglect by employees, including for things such as inadequate staffing. “You can’t sue the state, but the nursing home owners who cut back on staffing I feel should be held responsible,” Prague said.

The bill was partly motivated by the story of Robert Wininger, a Connecticut man who died after developing gangrene in both legs while residing in a nursing home. The family filed a wrongful death lawsuit, and named as a defendant the state’s public health commissioner.

Do we need such a bill in California? At Walton Law Firm, we have seen many deplorable acts of neglect and abuse, many of which have been investigated by the state, only to result in a small slap on the wrist. Maybe the threat of criminal prosecution would force the repeat offenders to either sell to competent owners or get out of the business.

Source: Norwich Bulletin

The nursing home abuse and neglect lawyers at the Walton Law Firm represent seniors and dependent adults throughout California who have been abused or neglected in the nursing home and assisted living setting. Call (866) 607-1325 for a free and confidential consultation.

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