In an article for Law360, Goldberg Segalla’s Caroline Berdzik, Chair of the firm’s Long-Term Care Practice Group, offered encouraging advice to long-term care facilities facing the threat of increased claims following Hurricane Irma.
After the storm knocked out power at the Rehabilitation Center at Hollywood Hills in Broward County, Florida, twelve patients died — and now family members have brought a spate of high-profile suits, alleging the nursing home failed to maintain a backup energy source and failed to call 911 for three days while the power was out. With media pundits and even Florida Gov. Rick Scott criticizing the facility, experts expect more lawsuits across the region affected by Irma to follow. However, while the Hollywood Hills facility is likely to face a difficult legal battle, other facilities in the area may not be equally exposed.
“If you are able to demonstrate you did the best under the circumstances, under your emergency plan, that your communications plan was appropriate and staff was trained, you are going to have some viable defenses,” Caroline told Law360. Caroline, a partner based in the firm’s Princeton, Philadelphia, and New York City offices, cited examples from Superstorm Sandy, which hit New York and New Jersey five years ago. In that case, long-term care facilities affected by the storm were able to mount successful defenses.
Regardless of the outcome of individual cases, though, Caroline still expects an increase in litigation following Hurricane Irma and the high-profile Hollywood Hills case.
“Nursing home cases in general are on the rise, and when you read stories like this, it may encourage families to bring litigation, even if they aren’t related to the hurricane,” she said. “I think you’re going to see quite a few more lawsuits by family members of residents.”