There are over 16,000 nursing homes in the United States, and like many other industries, the majority of these facilities are owned by large corporations. Nursing home negligence attorneys at Pintas & Mullins have been working with victims of elder mistreatment for two decades, and routinely face the sad reality of these corporations: in effort to increase profits, these companies systemically understaff nursing homes, placing patients at risk of abuse and neglect.
One recent case brought before the Pennsylvania Supreme Court,
Scampone v. Highland Park Care Center, allowed plaintiffs to hold the corporate owner of Highland liable for injuries caused to a patient. This decision was highly anticipated, as it was the first regarding the cause of negligence in a nursing home case in 15 years.
The issue of corporate negligence was first taken up over two decades ago in the case
Thompson v. Nason Hospital, which involved a woman who received care after a car accident and, as a result of malpractice, developed neurological problems. Plaintiffs successfully argued that the hospital should be held liable for the negligence of its staff as well as for its own negligent corporate actions.
Similarly, Pennsylvania justices unanimously ruled in
Scampone that Highland Park and its corporate owner, Grane Healthcare, were liable for the patient’s injuries. During trial, the patient’s family presented substantial evidence that Highland was understaffed, failed to notify doctors and family members of her medical status, and failure to follow physician orders. As its management company, Grane was responsible for training staff, managed inventory supplies, and kept track of the books.
Understaffing Just the Tip of the Iceberg
The pursuit of profits by corporations like Grane Healthcare has resulted in an epidemic of understaffing in American nursing homes, and it is a problem that has far-reaching, catastrophic implications. The patient at Highland, Madeline Scampone, resided there six years before her death, during which time she suffered urinary tract infections, dehydration, pressure ulcers, a heart attack and malnutrition.
Former Highland employees testified that the facility was chronically understaffed and lacked the resources to properly care for residents. They stated that they repeatedly informed management at both Highland and Grane about the insufficient staffing and care, however, nothing was done.
Since the harm suffered by Scampone was the direct result of corporate choices – namely, failing to hire adequate staff and oversee medical care – Grane was susceptible to vicarious and direct negligence claims. This was an important ruling for several reasons; most importantly, the court clarified that Grane was responsible for providing Scampone with sufficient care separate from that of Highland. The focus on duty highlighted the responsibility healthcare corporations have to their patients – that anyone who provides services to another is liable for any harm suffered when reasonable care is not exercised.
How this Affects Other Nursing Home Residents
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Although this case was heard in Pennsylvania, its conclusion could have an effect on nursing home cases throughout the country. Beyond that, it could also influence medical malpractice cases, personal injury lawsuits, and other claims against property owners and management companies. All nursing homes operate under federal law, which means that this case could serve as a persuasive authority over other nursing home cases nationwide.
If you or a loved one was injured in a nursing home, it is important to find out who exactly has ownership over that facility, its parent and management companies, and if there has been any change in ownership.
Scampone made clear that management companies, parent corporations and individual facilities can be held liable for a patient’s harm and suffering. Our team of nursing home abuse lawyers offers free, no-obligation consultations to potential clients nationwide, and can inform you of your legal rights and options.