Winning a nursing home neglect jury verdict is often only half the battle. Each Illinois nursing home neglect lawyer at our firm has dealt in detail with the often complex process of actually collecting the money owed to plaintiffs after being awarded redress in a lawsuit. One of the main issues is that large nursing home companies construct complex corporate structures with various layers in an effort to avoid liability for all of the harm that they cause negligently. It essence is it simply another way that these operators seek to keep as much money in their own pockets, no matter who is hurt along the way.
This issue is making national headlines recently because of a mammoth $200 million verdict that was handed down in a nursing home abuse case out of Florida. Amazingly, no attorney even showed up at the trial to defend against the claims, leading to the large verdict. There seemed to be confusion over who actually owed the negligent facility. While the verdict would indicate a large win for the plaintiff, in reality a large fight awaits to determine if the victims in that case will receive any redress at all. Collecting the award will likely prove harder than being awarded it.
As one of the nation’s most experienced professionals in this legal area, our Illinois nursing home neglect attorney Steven M. Levin was recently interviewed by Lawyers.com for his perspective on these issues. He explained how collection challenges against nursing home is not a new problem, because these companies have created complex business structures for years to evade responsibility for legal judgments against them.
Five years ago the New York Times touched on the very same issues. It was explained how some homes, particularly those with private equity firm investors, spread ownership out among dozens of different companies, making collection of judgments against them quite difficult. This is particularly distressing because the for-profit homes with complex structures are also the ones most likely to provide inadequate patient care that leads to harm.
That is not to say that it is impossible to collect for plaintiffs after an award. However, it takes diligent work, particularly among those who are experienced in these affairs to ensure that accountability is actually had. Attorney Levin summarized our process by explaining, “We try to determine who really owns the home and who is receiving money for operating the home, and we try to come up with theories to show that these individuals are potentially personally responsible for what happened.”
He went on to explain, for example, that an attorney may be able to show that an individual company president might have made specific decisions which prevented those working at the nursing home from providing an acceptable level of care. In that situation, the owner or president cannot hide behind the legal entity to avoid personal liability for the harm. Similarly, it is often important to seek personal liability against owners and operators that purposefully carry inadequate insurance coverage. In this way, the facility cannot escape responsibility simply because the legal entity itself does not have sufficient resources or insurance to pay for the consequences of their conduct.
All of these trends are part of the basic problem of prioritizing money over patient care. Attorney Levin summarized that “what’s happening is that now the owners’ desire to make a profit apparently conflicts with having the appropriate staff and resources to adequately care for the residents.”
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