An Arkansas nursing home hoping to claim immunity from a lawsuit because of its charitable status may have new life, thanks to a new ruling from the state’s highest court.
Justices voted 4-3 Thursday, overturning an appeals court’s previous declaration that the Davis Life Care Center could not claim charitable immunity from a lawsuit, which alleged that it delivered negligent care. Justices argued that the previous judgment should not have been left in the hands of a jury.
“The ultimate question of charitable immunity is a matter of law for the court to decide.”the majority wrote in a decision published Thursday.
The Arkansas Times reported Thursday that, in short, it appears that the “hot bubbling issues in legal circles — whether nursing homes can set up as nonprofits to avoid liability lawsuits” — has not finally been decided. Justice Rhonda Wood noted that charitable immunity, if eventually granted to Arkansas SNFs, would shield providers from lawsuits and not just liabilities.
Johnny Newborn’s estate first filed suit against Davis Life Care Center in 2011. It alleged that he died wrongfully because of medical malpractice and negligence. The Pine Bluff, AR-based facility countered that the suit could not proceed due to the doctrine of charitable immunity, which protects such organizations from lawsuits based on their actions, even if negligent. While most states have abolished the doctrine, it still stands in Arkansas.
DLCC did not immediately respond to a McKnight’s request for comment Thursday. The Supreme Court’s ruling reverses and remands the previous decision, ordering a new trial to be determined at a later date.