Monday, September 29, 2008

Governor Schwarzenegger Signs Elder Abuse Bills into Law

California Governor Arnold Schwarzenegger signed several bills designed to protect the elderly into law this week. The new laws provide a plan for the elderly in the event of a disaster and offer greater protection for the elderly from financial elder abuse. The following is a brief synopsis of these new laws:

Two bills targeting nursing home and residential care facilities were signed this week:AB 2370 is aimed at preventing nursing homes from hiking their rates without notice. The law requires residential care facilities to annually post information regarding recent rate increases, requires the disclosure of rate increase information to new residents, and, upon request, to requires the disclosure of rate increase information to prospective residents.

AB 749 is designed to protect the elderly in the event of a disaster or major power outage. The law requires residential care facilities to have a comprehensive emergency plan by March 1, 2009 that provides that the facility will be self-reliant if necessary for at least 72 hours. The plan must be available to residents and emergency personnel.

The following bills are designed to offer greater protection from physical abuse to the elderly and their families:

AB 2100 is designed to encourage people to come forward with suspicions of elder abuse. The law requires ombudspersons at long-term care facilities to report cases of alleged or suspected physical abuse, including sexual abuse, and financial abuse to the local district attorney’s office.

AB 225 applies to restraining orders issued in elder abuse cases. The law extends the protection of a restraining order to include named family members, household members and conservators of the elder abuse victim.

The following three bills are aimed at those who run scams targeting the elderly or are engaged in financial elder abuse:

SB 1136 makes it a misdemeanor to charge an “unconscionable fee” to qualify a person for a public social service benefit, including Medi-Cal.

AB 2149 regulates the use of “expertise” designations and requires advisors to take training courses before holding themselves out as having specialized knowledge regarding the financial needs of seniors. The bill is designed to prevent the elderly from falling prey to unscrupulous financial advisors who claim to be experts on financial planning for the elderly.

SB 1140 extends the statute of limitations for a claim for damages due to financial elder abuse to four years from the plaintiff discovers, or should have discovered, the abuse. Presently, the statute of limitations on such a claim is three years. In addition, the definition of financial abuse of an elder is expanded to include the action of taking, appropriating, obtaining or retaining, real or personal property by undue influence.

Thanks for reading my blog. If you suspect that a loved one has been the victim of physical, financial or sexual elder abuse, contact me for assistance.

Tuesday, September 2, 2008

Class Action Lawsuits Against Nursing Homes

This week a class action lawsuit against the corporate owner of a group of nursing homes in Southern California was settled for $2 million. The lawsuit was filed on behalf of residents who were promised a high level of care by the nursing home operator. The lawsuit alleged that while the residents were promised quality care, the nursing homes were understaffed and the owners knew they could not provide the promised level of care given their level of staffing. The residents sued, alleging the owner’s conduct constituted fraud. During the course of the lawsuit, it was discovered that one of the nursing homes in question had 77 health and safety violations within the past four years.

A similar class action lawsuit has recently been filed in the state of Washington against the corporate owner of 15 nursing homes in Washington, accusing the owner of luring residents in with false advertising and charging for services that were never provided. The lawsuit also alleges that the nursing homes were understaffed and that the quality of care suffered as a result of understaffing.

A nursing home class action lawsuit is a lawsuit brought by an individual resident or a group of residents, on behalf of a much larger group with the same or similar problem or complaint. A class action lawsuit is typically brought where others have been injured in the same manner and it is too expensive or impractical to bring an individual lawsuit. Nursing home class action lawsuits serve an important function in that they provide oversight and force nursing home owners to improve the quality of the care they provide.

Nursing homes are in the business to earn a profit, and in striving to maximize their profits, many nursing homes fail to maintain an appropriate level of staffing and are seriously understaffed. There is a direct correlation between the quality of care and the level of staffing; if a facility doesn’t have enough staff, the incidences of elder abuse and neglect are significantly higher. When you are considering a nursing home facility, be sure to ask about the staff to resident ratio.

If you or a loved one have been the victim of abuse, negligence or neglect by a nursing home, contact an attorney to find out your legal rights and options. If you have a question or comment, feel free to respond to this posting, but keep in mind your response will not be confidential. You can also call or e-mail me to discuss your matter confidentially. Thanks for reading.