How Easy is it to Sue a California Nursing Home for Negligence During the COVID-19 Pandemic?

Although the COVID-19 pandemic has affected people from all walks of life, our elderly population in California was arguably the hardest hit by this crisis. Thousands of people in nursing homes have lost their lives, and many others suffered tremendously. Although many of our healthcare workers strived to ensure the safety and care of these vulnerable individuals, questions have been raised about nursing home negligence in California and across the United States. How could we have allowed this to happen? Is there any evidence of widespread negligence among nursing homes? If so, what are we going to do about it?

If you or someone you love suffered as a result of negligence in a California nursing home, you need to take swift legal action against those responsible. Our legal system represents one of the few viable ways in which we can change this system and ensure that similar mistakes are not made in the future. This is about more than simply receiving compensation for your damages. It is about making our healthcare system safer and more hygienic. It is about making sure that the next generation of elderly Americans does not fall into the same fatal trap.

Across California, individuals are starting to file lawsuits against nursing homes that have acted in a clearly negligent manner. While progress is being made, there are many obstacles we still need to overcome. Seeking justice in these situations is not always easy, especially when it involves medical malpractice. If you are thinking about filing a lawsuit, you need to consult with a personal injury attorney who is capable of overcoming these obstacles. It makes sense to enlist the help of a lawyer who is experienced, qualified, and specifically experienced with these matters.

What Happened to Nursing Homes in California During the Pandemic?

On December 1st of 2020, it was reported that almost 30,000 nursing home residents had tested positive for COVID-19. Of those individuals, almost 5,000 had died. This is obviously a much higher death rate compared to the rest of the general population. So why was this happening? Elderly people are notably more vulnerable than the rest of the population because of factors outside of anyone’s control, such as weakened immune systems and existing conditions. But does this really give us the real picture of what happened? One study found that there were several factors that led to increased infection and death rates in California nursing homes:

  • Ownership Status: For-profit nursing homes had an infection rate that was up to six times higher than that of non-profit and government-funded nursing homes.
  • Size of Nursing Homes: Larger nursing homes had a higher rate of COVID-19 infections, somewhat predictably
  • Staff: Infections rates were higher in nursing homes that were understaffed
  • Demographics: Various demographics also impacted infection rates in nursing homes. Black and Latin males older than 85 were especially vulnerable.

While these facts are undoubtedly helpful in understanding the issues at play, statistics do not always paint an accurate picture. On October 1st of 2020, a report highlighted the specific problems associated with nursing homes in California. Dr. Michael Wasserman is the president of the California Association of Long-Term Care Medicine, and he is also the director of the Eisenberg Village nursing home in Reseda. Dr. Wasserman had some worrying things to say about the state of nursing homes in California during the COVID-19 crisis.

According to Dr. Wasserman, many physicians and managers who wanted to test nursing home residents for COVID-19 were denied the right to do so by administrators. One of these physicians was even fired as a result of their efforts to test nursing home residents. Wasserman explained: “So many of my colleagues wouldn’t go public with their stories of management’s resistance to testing, but I think ultimately these stories will come out in lawsuits.”

California Fights Back Against Nursing Home Lawsuits

The state of California has taken a strong stance against impending lawsuits that target nursing homes for alleged negligence. In August of 2020, the Los Angeles Times reported  that while nursing homes were still reeling from the effects of COVID-19, California’s Supreme Court had ruled that the maximum compensation residents could receive was $500. In other words, negligent nursing homes face extremely minor penalties for endangering people’s lives. With such minor penalties, one has to ask whether the issues that led to these deaths will actually be addressed.

The implications of this ruling are obvious. Even though nursing homes suffered the worst out of any segment of California’s population, they are now being limited to how much compensation they may receive. According to the Supreme Court, lawsuits against nursing homes are now effectively “toothless.”

In another report dated to August of 2020, JD Supra reported that a range of different states across the United States had granted immunity to nursing homes against lawsuits filed by residents. However, the two states that had not shielded nursing homes from liability were Florida and California.

This means that California residents actually have much more freedom when filing lawsuits against nursing homes compared to other states. Californians have a long-established history of suing nursing homes, and in some cases these medical facilities have faced lawsuits of $30 million or more. Although residents who have suffered due to COVID-19 certainly face obstacles, it is by no means a futile endeavor.

Enlist the Help of a Qualified Attorney Today

If you have been searching the San Francisco area for a personal injury attorney you can trust, look no further than Mary Alexander & Associates, P.C. We are closely monitoring the ongoing situation in California in regards to COVID-19 lawsuits against nursing homes, and we understand the specific legislation at play. We are committed to fighting for the rights of our valued elderly population, and we will do everything it takes to see that justice is served. Reach out today to book a consultation, and we can develop an action plan together. No one deserves to be kept in an unsafe and unhygienic nursing home, especially not in a first-world nation like the United States.