Last Update: 01/27/16
This month, news outlets across the country reported on a Polk County, Florida, jury that came back with the staggering verdict of $220,000,000 in actual damages and $1 billion in punitive damages in a Florida nursing home negligence case brought on behalf of Arlene Townsend and based upon the care she got at the Auburndale Oaks Healthcare Center.
Whether or not this huge verdict can really be collected is one thing – but the message that this jury is sending to nursing homes and assisted living facilities in the State of Florida is clear.
The Townsend case was based upon negligence law and argued that Mrs. Townsend received negligent care at the facility. During her three year stay at the facility, until she died in 2007, Mrs. Townsend fell many times – her lawsuit argued that she was not properly supervised. From the verdict, we know that the jury agreed.
Negligence vs. Negligent Security at a Nursing Home or Assisted Care Facility
Those who undertake the responsibility of caring for the elderly or incapacitated are legally taking on the duty of providing a certain level of care to these people. If they fail to do so, then they are liable for negligence damages either to the victim or to the victim’s surviving family.
Negligent security laws may apply when the resident is a victim of crime from an outside perpetrator. It is shocking but true that nursing homes and resident care facilities are often targets of criminals who see the residents as easy marks for a great variety of crimes:
- Attempted Rape
- Identity Theft
Vulnerable Targets for Crime Means Duty of Providing Secure and Safe Environment
For those that live at a Florida assisted care facility or a Florida nursing home, it is understood that they face certain challenges when make them particularly vulnerable to those seeking to take advantage of them financially or physically. Accordingly, Florida law imposes a duty upon those that own and operate Florida nursing homes and care facilities to protect and secure the residents’ safety.
This can mean many things, depending upon the situation. For example, a resident suffering dementia may be known to wander away and need not only monitoring but special care like an identification bracelet (name, known to wander, etc.). However, making sure that residents’ care needs are met is one issue: protecting them from harm from another person is another.
Negligent security cases involve a resident who has been hurt in a criminal act. The nursing home or assisted living facility has a duty to protect its residents from criminal harm and when a crime has occurred, then not only will Florida law hold the criminal responsible for the harm, Florida law may well find the nursing home or care facility is responsible for the resident’s injuries, too.
If the nursing home or assisted care facility does not make sure that proper security measures have been evaluated and implemented, then they will be held legally liable when one of the residents is hurt due to their failure to provide security or because it has provided inadequate security.
How can this be determined?
Police reports may provide valuable information. The resident and other residents may also help with giving information on what happened and how there was inadequate security at the time. Interviewing witnesses among residents and staff can prove invaluable.
Additionally, an experienced Florida negligent security lawyer can bring their own security knowledge and expertise to the case, and can do other things like:
- having professional investigators check into the matter (along with nursing home security experts);
- investigating the backgrounds of nursing home employees and staff and visitors on the sign-in books for criminal histories;
- researching past crimes that have occurred at the facility or under the watch of nursing home staff or management at another facility;
- checking video footage of cameras at the facility as well as nearby (if they exist);
- physically reviewing the facility for lack of locks or improper locks on doors and windows, lack of security cameras in hallways, at the front desk, and in shared living areas.
The message here: don’t just hire any personal injury lawyer.
What Should You Do?
A good piece of advice if you have been harmed at a nursing home, is to at least speak with an experienced personal injury lawyer before you file a claim to learn about some of the issues that can arise with these claims, including the type of evidence needed to prove a claim and the type and amount of damages you can recover. Most personal injury lawyers, like Alan Sackrin, will offer a free initial consultation (over the phone or in person) to answer your questions.
- What Type Of Legal Duty Does A Florida Property Owner Have For Injuries To Visitors?: Florida Premises Liability’s Invitee, Licensee, Trespasser Distinctions
- What is Concurrent Causation?: Determining Who Pays Damages For Your Injuries When More Than One Person is Negligent
Do you have questions or comments? Then please feel free to send Alan an email or call him now at (954) 458-8655.