Last September, a bill was passed by the Pennsylvania Judiciary Committee which would limit punitive damages against nursing homes who are found guilty of neglect, abuse, and other misconduct. The specious argument for the bill was that, without a cap on those damages, out-of-state lawyers were specifically targeting nursing homes and forcing them to pay so much money that the facilities would fall into bankruptcy, leaving elderly people who couldn’t take care of themselves without a place to go. The end result would be an entire state where there are no nursing homes or long-term care facilities because no business would want to risk it. A ridiculous argument without any basis in reality. Punitive damages are meant to deter the repetition of the conduct so that the neglect and abuse does not happen again.
When the bill went to the Pennsylvania House of Representatives, it was struck down in a 103-91 vote. Those in opposition to it argued that there were so few cases like these in Pennsylvania each year that those claims and predictions were unfounded. Most cases against nursing homes resolve before trial because those facilities fear what a jury might award after hearing about the abuse and neglect suffered by the residents because of corporate greed and mismanagement.
No one wants a business which neglects or abuses the elderly to have a lighter punishment purely out of reverence for the job they were supposed to but did not do. The nursing home industry and their well paid lobbyists will continue to attack the constitutional right to a jury trial to avoid accountability for their acts of greed and indifference to the safety and well-being of the vulnerable adults in their care.