A Pennsylvania appeals court has ruled that nursing homes can be held corporately liable through a nursing home neglect lawsuit or nursing home wrongful death lawsuit for injuries caused by substandard care.
The Pennsylvania Superior Court overturned a lower court verdict, ruling that Grane Healthcare, which owns Highland Park Care Center, can be held liable for the 2004 death of one of their residents. The case stems from a lawsuit filed by the son of Madeline Scampone, who died from a heart attack after suffering from a urinary tract infection,untreated bedsores, malnutrition, and dehydration while in the nursing home home.
Key to the case was the fact that Scampone claimed that the nursing home was chronically understaffed, which the panel of judges said expressly showed failing on the part of the management company. The panel unanimously ruled that a nursing home has the same responsibility and liability for its residents as a hospital has for its patients, indicating that the evidence suggested the management company and nursing home staff acted with reckless disregard for residents and made nursing home abuse and neglect more likely.
The ruling overturns a previous decision by an Allegheny County Common Pleas judge, who ruled that Grane Healthcare could not be held corporately responsible for Scampone’s death.
The Superior Court determined that not only could the company be held responsible for compensation, but that a jury could determine it should suffer punitive damages as well. The lower court had ruled that there was insufficient evidence for punitive damages.
Witnesses testified on Scampone’s behalf that the nursing home was chronically understaffed, and said that the company would temporarily boost staffing levels when an inspection was scheduled and then immediately return to its understaffed state after the inspection was over. They also testified that nursing home staff altered medical records to hide substandard care.
“Corporate negligence as a basis for liability is supported as a cause of action against Grane because it was the entity that managed all aspects of the operation of the nursing facility,” Supreme Court Judge Mary Jane Bowes wrote in the opinion. “Grane had assumed the responsibility of a comprehensive health center, arranging and coordinating the total health care of the nursing facility residents.”