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Tampa Nursing Home Abuse Lawsuit

With the surge of baby boomers turning 65 and older, and Florida’s draw for retirees from around the country, the state faces an overcrowding and underfunding dilemma when it comes to their nursing care facilities. Often these two issues can be direct factors in elder abuse and neglect at these facilities. Florida’s zero tolerance policies on elder abuse have led to colossal settlements and fines in the past.

Elvira Nunziata

In 2012, a nursing home abuse lawsuit in Tampa ended with a 200-million-dollar fine being levied against a facility, after a woman fell down a stairwell and died. The facility already had a history of abuse accusations and complaints. Witnesses claimed that Nunziata had alarms affixed to her clothing and wheelchair due to her frequent habit of wandering; even with these alarms, she was not found in her fallen state for over an hour.

This award was the largest, at the time, that any nursing home facility in Florida had ever been ordered to pay out. It was awarded to Nunziata’s son. Only a year later, another lawsuit was filed against a private, in-home care organization, stating that an elderly patient was sexually assaulted by a nursing aid. Once again, a large settlement was reached.

Jim Wilkes

In 2014, the Florida Legislature began considering two bills which would make it harder for lawyers to seek huge settlement amounts from the investors and contractors who manage the companies that own the nursing facilities.

This is largely due to a lawyer named Jim Wilkes. In his career as a Tampa lawyer, he has won cases that range from a million, to the infamous 200-million-dollar Nunziata case. The industry leaders were worried that families would put them entirely out of business, meaning there would be no one to serve the incoming growth of aging baby boomers.

The SB 670 and the HB 569 were designed to stop investors who don’t have a managing role in the nursing facility from being held responsible for legal settlements and fines. Both of these bills passed, with the addition of specific language that identified routes to take to reveal who exactly owned and managed what when it comes to these cases in the future.

Florida State Law

Reporting elder abuse in Florida is mandatory for all citizens. This abuse can manifest in many ways. The signs to watch for include obvious signs of physical abuse, such as bruises or broken bones, but also signs of malnutrition and dehydration. What may look like illness could actually be the result of neglect. A sudden loss of property or cash flow may be a symptom of financial abuse, while depression and other sudden onsets of mental disorders could be a sign of emotional abuse.

There are a few routes to take when reporting elder abuse. The Florida ABUSE hotline is a direct link to the agencies that are in place to support the rights of Florida’s senior citizens. If the elder is in immediate danger, a call to the local Tampa authorities would result in the swiftest action, and the Adult Protective Services could be then called in once immediate safety is established.

Choosing the right lawyer will also make a difference, as is seen in the incredible cases of Jim Wilkes. After an initial evaluation and acceptance period, a lawyer will work with the APS investigators or the Attorney General’s office to ensure that the case is presented to the courts is the best manner. The statute of limitations for reporting and presenting cases can be small, depending on the severity of the alleged abuse, so it’s best to report immediately if you suspect elder abuse.

 

Sources:

http://www.tampabay.com/news/health/legislators-target-renegade-tampa-law-firm-with-bill-to-limit-nursing-home/2170824

 

http://www.nursinghomesabuseblog.com/litigation/

 

https://www.lawyersandsettlements.com/articles/nursing-home-abuse/nursing-home-abuse-elder-care-neglect-12-17396.html

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