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State Officials Reach Agreement With Negligent Nursing Home Officials

Illinois nursing home neglect persists in large part because many of those who are in a position to put a stop to the abuse do nothing. This appears to be a nationwide problem. For example, Kentucky News reported this week on the tragic case of nursing home sexual abuse that went unreported by nursing home administrators. The incident stems from the sexual abuse of an elderly female resident at the facility-an 88-year old Alzheimer’s patient. A male resident forced the victim inside her room and abused her. She was previously assaulted in the hallway of the facility within view of nursing home staff members.

State officials at the attorney general’s office recently fined the home $20,000 after it was discovered that the facility’s administrator was made aware of the suspected sexual abuse but did nothing to stop it or report it. The law required the employee to report the suspected problem to the state Cabinet for Health and Family Services. Besides the fine, all facilities under the same ownership are required to change policies to conform with state law and undergo additional training to properly report abuse and neglect. The agreement means that the negligent administrator will avoid criminal charges, but it does not mean that civil penalties will not attach.

The family members of the victim were not at all satisfied with the agreement reached. The family has already filed a nursing home abuse lawsuit against the facility. They believe the punishment decided upon by the attorney general’s office does not adequately reflect the seriousness of the misconduct.

The law of negligence provides that an individual (or a facility) can violate the civil law both by their taking an affirmative action that harms another (i.e. hitting a resident) or by their failure to take some steps to protect those whom they had a duty to protect. Not everyone can be held liable for failure to take affirmative action. For example, a random person on the street that does not help an injured stranger that they see generally cannot be held liable for negligence. However, those who have a specific duty to act to help others-like a nursing home caregiver-may be held liable for their failure to take reasonable steps to help one in their care. This is a vital distinction that is built into the civil law specifically to protect those vulnerable individuals like nursing home residents.

It is a logical protection. By inviting residents into these facilities and agreeing to provide aid, these caregivers take on responsibilities. Others are less likely to ensure that residents are safe, because they assume that employees of these nursing home facilities are taking action to protect these individuals. Therefore, when employees do not actually provide the protection expected of them residents are left with no advocates. Nursing home abuse and neglect typically result.

Our Illinois nursing home lawyers at Levin & Perconti understand the duties that nursing home caregivers owe to the patients in their care. That duty can be breached in many circumstances. It is important for family members of victimized residents to share their concerns and seek the advice of lawyers whenever they have suspicions about mistreatment.

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