Study: Nursing homes facing more, more expensive lawsuits

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Nursing home operators have been hit by a huge increase in consumer lawsuits, according to a study sponsored by the largest nursing home association in the country.

There were 15.3 claims filed for every 1,000 occupied beds in 2003, according to the American Health Care Association. That's an 11% rise over a year earlier, when the number was 13.8 claims per 1,000 occupied beds. In 1992, the number was just 4.8 per 1,000.

The average liability suit payout was $149,000 in 2003, according to the survey of 108 long-term care operators. That is notably down from the peak of $187,000 in 1998.

The average rise in malpractice insurance for nursing homes rose 51% last year. The previous annual increases were 143% (2002) and 131% (2001).

That equated to an average "liability cost," which takes into account premiums and litigation costs, of $2,290 per bed, a 12% rise over a year earlier, according to the AHCA study. Florida had the highest liability cost per bed, $8,170, according to Aon Risk Consultants, which performed the analysis for AHCA