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Legal Reforms Boost Californians’ Rights to Sue Nursing Homes for Abuse and Neglect

When your older or disabled loved ones enter a nursing home, you have a right to expect them to be well cared for. You want them to enjoy a good quality of life, to receive proper treatment for any physical ailments or mental disorders from which they might suffer, and to be free of abuse, neglect, intimidation, excessive medication and isolation.

California has a Patients’ Bill of Rights that protects all of these and other privileges, and federal and state regulations add furthers protections and provide a scheme of governmental enforcement. However, California went further and instituted a private means of enforcement by those most affected.

A recent amendment signed into law by Governor Newsom strengthened this private cause of action. Previously, the relevant statute provided that a nursing home owner may be liable to a patient for damages of up to $500 for violating that patient’s rights, regardless of the number of violations. The new statute makes nursing homes liable for damages of up to $500 for each violation committed after March 1, 2021. In addition, plaintiffs may seek court orders enjoining the violations. They may also be awarded payment of their attorney fees and costs by the defendant, which makes bringing a lawsuit more affordable.

The statute gives the court discretion in deciding the amount of damages, within the statutory dollar limit, based on:

  • The nature and seriousness of each violation
  • The likelihood and seriousness of the risk that each violation would cause a resident to suffer indignity, discomfort or pain
  • The facility’s efforts to prevent each violation or its future recurrence

Thus, a serious violation that is likely to cause pain and that a facility repeatedly failed to correct could result in a full $500, while a relatively minor inconvenience that rarely occurred and that the facility took steps to avoid would likely result in a small assessment.

This amendment should have an important positive effect on the safety and comfort of those in nursing homes. It is intended to target the worst offenders and to encourage facilities to avoid repetitive or multiple violations.

If you suspect your loved one is being neglected or mistreated while in nursing home care, you should immediately notify the nursing home administrator and request that they investigate and, if necessary, take action to correct the problem and prevent it in the future. You may also alert the patient’s physician, especially if the suspected violation could endanger the patient’s health. Finally, you should contact an experienced nursing home abuse and neglect attorney.

Patterson Law combines the skill and resources of a large firm with the personal attention of a small firm. We work to protect patients from nursing home abuse and neglect in Santa Barbara and Ventura Counties, as well as other parts of California. Initial consultations are free. Call us at 888-479-4589 or contact us online.