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Hughey Law Firm Blog


Lessons learned from long-term care lawsuits

Elizabeth Leis Newman – McKnights

Despite one’s best intentions for 2014, there will be days when you feel like you are failing your residents, your coworkers, your family or yourself.

This is a part of life, but do not fear. The pageviews on McKnight’s lawsuit stories reflect that people both want to know what to look out for, and to take a deep reassuring breath when they realize neither they, nor their company, are the ones in trouble. It’s not literal schadenfreude, as long-term caregivers don’t tend to delight in other people’s pain. Think of the below as a reminder that if you are providing quality care to residents, billing accurately and ethically, and approaching each day with solid values, you are doing better than these people.

For example:

-In Kentucky, we have a case of a registered nurse at a nursing home who entered the room of a patient with a cigarette lighter, which started a fire. Unluckily for the resident, he was in a complete vegetative state, which, as the OIG helpfully pointed out, “left him unable to escape the fire.” Not only did the man die, but the nurse made no attempt to contact anyone regarding the fire. The nurse was convicted and sentenced in 2010, but in late 2013 also was excluded from practicing for a minimum of 20 years.

In Wisconsin, two former employees at Brookview Meadows in Howard were sentenced last week after pleading no contest to misdemeanor chargers involving using cellphones to record and share images of naked residents. If this sounds familiar, it’s because in 2011, three former nursing home employees were accused of mocking a topless resident and being caught on video, although they were later acquitted.

-Of course, let’s not forget the myriad of lawsuits and settlements McKnight’swrote about in 2013. From the Rhode Island former nursing home executive agreeing to a $1.2 million settlement with the federal government because of his massive fraud problems; to the Colorado businessman found guilty of trafficking long-term care nurses into forced labor; to Johnson & Johnson settling their antipsychotics case for $2.2 billion with the federal government, it was a year of law, order and Crocs.

Going into the next year, there are lessons to learn from other people’s misfortunes. One, take responsibility when you make a mistake. Two, assume and tell employees they should assume they are being watched, and that nothing illicit on a smartphone or social media stays private. Third, to know that when it comes to kickbacks or questionable actions, the chickens will eventually come home to roost.