Credit: Getty Images

A top legal adviser is cautioning skilled nursing providers to remain vigilant and strictly adhere to the latest guidance and regulations during the national public health emergency, when the threat of litigation against nursing homes is likely to remain high.

“If you’re a long-term care facility, it’s important to know what your obligations are under state and federal regulation,” advised Matthew Platkin, former chief counsel to New Jersey Gov. Phil Murphy (D). 

“And to the extent you’re facing litigation, it’s important to see what actions your state has taken to change the potential liability of long-term care facilities,” said Platkin, now a partner at the law firm Lowenstein Sandler in New Jersey.

Litigation is widespread already, taking many forms — from civil suits, regulatory agency actions and criminal suits to enforcement measures from the Department of Justice, Platkin said in an interview with McKnight’s Long-Term Care News. Facilities need to stay abreast of any changes at the federal, state or local level. They also should stay apprised of what nursing home associations are saying regarding the standard of care.

“That is the most critical thing they can do,” said Platkin, who left the governor’s office in October for private practice. “If they fail to comply with a new regulation down the road, it could be the basis for cause of action against them. The critical thing is to monitor changes in regulations or obligations they have to fulfill. That includes any reporting obligations. It’s really critical there are systems in place to fulfill any reporting obligations imposed on them.”

Given the stepped-up litigious atmosphere, it also would behoove providers to have someone on their legal team review their current litigation exposure, he said.

“It’s always better to be cautious and careful in this environment so you can show you took affirmative steps to provide the best care under the circumstances,” he said.