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  • Writer's pictureLeitner Varughese Warywoda

New Bill Allows Families to Hold Nursing Homes Accountable for Fatal Neglect & Abuse

nursing home resident with doctor

Nursing homes across New York are expected to provide quality care, but that doesn’t mean they always do. And until recently, unfortunately, the families of incapacitated or deceased residents had little to no legal recourse when facilities failed them.

While residents have had the right to take action following neglect or abuse, their loved ones were not necessarily entitled to file a claim in the event of their incapacitation or passing—until now. According to the New York Law Journal, Gov. Kathy Hochul signed a bill earlier this summer that grants certain parties the right to sue on behalf of victims of nursing home abuse. These parties include legal representatives and estates.

The bill, titled S995/A159, had been pending for a while, but the consequences of the pandemic finally highlighted its importance, giving it the momentum needed for passage. The number of COVID-related deaths among New York nursing home residents is approaching 16,000. Some reports state this figure is on the low end, however, because deaths are being underreported by as much as 50 percent.

In passing this bill, the administration hopes families will be able to seek justice on behalf of their loved ones. Because the statute clarifies the rights of legal representatives and estates, there will no longer be any doubt regarding a family’s ability to sue over neglect or abuse.

Efforts to amend the public health law that made it challenging, if not impossible, for surviving loved ones to bring an action against a nursing home began before the pandemic. Assemblyman Richard Gottfried, D-Manhattan, first sponsored the original bill 15 years ago.

Gottfried compared nursing home neglect and abuse to other scenarios that often lead to wrongful death and questioned why it warranted an exception. When a drunk driver kills someone, for example, the victim’s family can file a claim in pursuit of damages. When nursing home staff did the same, however, the family couldn’t act on behalf of the victim.

With the rising number of COVID-related deaths in long-term care facilities, the reformed law finally garnered the attention it deserved. Gottfried said his bill was rejected by the legislature annually, from 2007 to 2018. During the pandemic, though, legislators were forced to confront the kind of substandard care that some nursing home residents were receiving—and the devastating impact it could have. Consequently, they were more inclined to pass the bill once it crossed their desks again.

Speak with a New York Nursing Home Abuse Attorney

Do you have reason to believe your loved one was neglected or abused by their caregivers? To see if your family might have grounds for legal action, turn to Leitner Varughese.

Our knowledgeable team will investigate the allegations and then evaluate all potential evidence, so we can help you determine how best to proceed. Call 855-585-2969 or submit our Contact Form to schedule a free initial consultation with a compassionate nursing home abuse lawyer in New York. We counsel clients across New York City, Long Island, and throughout the rest of the state.


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