The Palm Beach Post reported on Florida’s attempts to protect the corporate decision-makers from accountability for their decisions that affect the care provided at the facility. In the case of “vicarious liability,” HB 869 says, punitive damages may not be imposed unless “an officer, director, or manager of the actual employer, corporation, or legal entity condoned, ratified, or consented to the specific conduct.” The bill makes it even more difficult to hold the corporate decision-makers (who make millions from taxpayers) responsible for the neglect and abuse at their nursing homes.
Advocates for residents warn it’s a bad move in a state with one in five homes on a watch list for safety concerns. 15 more nursing homes recently joined the state watch list, joining some 123 others already on it.
“All this legislation does is immunize corporate decision-makers from any accountability,” said Brian Lee, the state’s former long-term care ombudsman and now the executive director of an advocacy group, Families for Better Care.
Meanwhile, executives who controlled nursing homes in Palm Beach and two other counties face felony charges in a $2.75 million Medicaid fraud case. A Pahokee nursing home paid more than $26,000 for an assistant CEO’s BMW and a Gainesville affiliate paid more than $50,000 for her Cadillac convertible, according to documents supporting the arrests. The Gainesville home is on the watch list.
This additional protection is not needed. Florida had the most dramatic changes in liability costs in the country, with claims per 1,000 beds dropping by half from 2000 to 2007 and severity falling from $450,000 to $100,000 per claim.