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Nursing Homes and COVID-19: What to Consider When Filing a Lawsuit

April 21, 2020

Among the many tragedies of the novel Coronavirus pandemic, the recent news of the virus running seemingly unrestrained in nursing homes and long-term care facilities is certainly one of the more sobering headlines. The media provides, and rightly so, daily reminders of beleaguered yet heroic healthcare workers – in all types of locations – doing their best to treat patients in what are clearly some untenable circumstances. By now we know it is being done with less than adequate protective equipment, requiring life and death decisions without, it appears, full knowledge of what they are fighting and how it is spread.

With this backdrop it seems difficult to lay blame on those same overworked nursing home medical providers for the sickness or death of a family member. In many instances these facilities have been caring for that same family member for years, and have even become a trusted part of the family dynamic as they provide care, compassion and updates when you can’t be there. Is it reasonable to hold them more accountable for the worst outcomes when they are caring for the most at risk demographic in terms of contracting the virus?

As with any lawsuit, suing a nursing home should be approached on a case-by-case basis. Coronavirus differs from other nursing home illnesses and the fact that a patient contracted this virus will not always point to substandard care. However, nursing homes across the country all have to follow the same federal regulatory requirements because they accept Medicare and Medicaid patients. The Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services (CMS) published specific guidelines as early as March 9, 2020 to direct the handling of COVID-19.

Several of these guidelines focus on who is let into a facility. In fact, the first lawsuit of its kind related to the coronavirus outbreak has just been filed against Life Care Center in Washington, citing that the facility “lacked a clear plan of action leading to a systemic failure.” The complaint also cites that a Mardi Gras party was held with visitors being allowed to come in and out of the building, a physician who was not on the premises for an extended duration, and that it took the facility seventeen days to report the Covid-19 cases to the proper authorities, despite a requirement of 24 hours.

This scenario seems compellingly negligent but the reality is nobody is entirely sure, given the resources and guidance currently available, if nursing homes will be held liable. This lawsuit, and the many that will likely follow, will all have the burden to prove that in the chaotic reality that is this pandemic, the nursing home knowingly diverged from their standard protocols and procedures, ignored the CMS and the Centers for Disease Control (CDC) guidelines and allowed confusion and missteps to occur.

Things to focus on when considering if you have grounds to file a lawsuit against a nursing home are not so much the fact that this seemingly unavoidable infection entered your facility, but more on how the facility responded to the infection. Were the proper policies and procedures in place, did they have a proper infection control program, and did they follow the federal regulations?

Over the years we have represented numerous victims of medical malpractice and negligence and we understand the intricacies involved in this type of litigation. Our firm is ready and able to assist you if you or your loved one has been exposed to the coronavirus due to the neglect of the nursing home taking care of them. We will fight for your rights, keep you informed, and provide you the personal representation that your trust in us deserves. Please contact us and we will be happy to discuss your situation and talk about your options.

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