Florida court prohibits hundreds of lawsuits in facility death cases

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The Florida Supreme Court last week ruled that some survivors of deceased nursing home patients cannot recover damages for alleged abuse and neglect under the state's nursing home residents' bill of rights.

The ruling applies to an estimated 600 to 1,500 cases filed before May 15, 2001, according a published report. At that time, the law was changed to explicitly permit survivors to sue for damages even if the alleged failures in patient care did not directly result in the patient's death.

A majority of justices said the language of the 1976 nursing home residents' bill of rights statute is clear and if the legislature had intended to permit survivors to sue for damages in such cases, it would have written the law to say that explicitly.

A lawyer representing the nursing home industry in the appeal said that the ruling would clear 20% to 50% of the estimated 3,000 nursing home abuse and neglect cases in existence in 2001 when the law was changed to permit such suits.