Leitner Varughese Warywoda, a leading New York State trial law firm representing hundreds of victims of nursing home abuse and neglect, has been fighting side-by-side with Assemblyman Ron Kim and advocate group Voices for Seniors, to establish a New York Nursing Home Victims Compensation Fund to obtain justice for the thousands of victims who died as a result of COVID-19 in nursing home facilities.
The $4 billion nursing home compensation fund, titles "Justice for Nursing Home Victims Act", which would also extended statute of limitations, has been covered by the media extensively recently:
The legislative proposal was announced on Wednesday by Assemblyman Ron Kim (D). Eligible families that submit applications for compensation could receive a minimum payout of $250,000 for each resident who died of the virus under the proposal, the New York Post reported. Spouses and dependents of the deceased would be eligible to receive a minimum payment of $100,000.
The proposal also takes aim at liability measures put in place that protected providers from lawsuits over their COVID-19 responses. It seeks to extend the statute of limitations for COVID-related personal injury and death civil claims filed by residents and families.
“The Justice for Nursing Home Victims Act will make it very expensive for our state and the nursing home industry to commit ‘eldercide’,” Kim said.
Assemblyman Ron Kim, D-Queens, the chairman of the Assembly Committee on Aging, told CNHI that the state’s current law is flawed because it allows compensation to be based on the potential future earnings of the person who has died.
Kim said the nursing home industry would be motivated to improve the quality of care provided to residents if the compensation took into account the trauma suffered by a family as well as the loss of “intergenerational knowledge” when an older relative dies while experiencing poor care.
“I feel passionate about amending the wrongful death statute in the state of New York,” Kim said. “Unless we change the monetary value of an older person’s life, the nursing home industry is not going to care about killing people.”
Kim and other critics of the state government’s policies during the pandemic, such as Fox News personality Janice Dean, argue that thousands of New York nursing home patients may have died at the homes due to a state Health Department order, issued March 25, 2020, directing those facilities to accept COVID-19 patients from hospitals.
While the apology mattered, the families had an agenda: They want a victims compensation fund as well as transparency. They want the state to “release all nursing home data and pending FOIL requests," according to a note that lists the meeting agenda.
"I handed the governor my father's death certificate," Peter Arbeeny said. "She was agreeable, which was heartfelt for me, for a re-audit."
Hochul made no promises on that front, except that she’s listening.
"We actually opened the lines of communication where there were none, and they recognized that as progress," Hochul said.
As for the demand for a victims compensation fund, the governor told them that it is a legislative matter. The state Legislature is not back in session until January.
Janice Dean: NY's new governor has given me a glimmer of hope related to COVID nursing home deaths
HOCHUL MEETS WITH KIM, NURSING HOME FAMILY ADVOCATES: On Oct. 12, Assemblymember Ron Kim and nursing home family advocates met with Governor Kathy Hochul to discuss full accountability and transformative solutions to the nursing home and eldercare system. This is the first time a sitting governor met directly with Assemblymember Ron Kim, who is Chair of the Committee on Aging, and the families who lost their loved ones during the Covid-19 nursing home crisis.
Nursing home family advocates and Assemblymember Kim have been demanding greater transparency and accountability for the state’s failed Covid-19 nursing home policies that led to thousands of untimely and unnecessary deaths. Additionally, the group proposed six actions the governor must take in order to avoid another tragedy taking place in elder care facilities.
Assemblymember Kim: “It’s no secret that during the pandemic the previous governor prioritized meeting with his top industry donors rather than families of hospital and nursing home patients. Consequently, the state chose to protect industry profits, disguised as industry stability, over saving people’s lives. Today, was a refreshing start to what I hope translates into a better and more caring New York that will be honest about mistakes in the past, and center solutions around patient and resident care for the future. We still have a long road before we can achieve accountability but we are thankful for taking a step in the right direction today.”
According to a report by the New York Post, the legislation, called the Justice for Nursing Home Victims Act, would set a minimum payment of $250,000 “for every loved one who died of the virus,” with “spouses and dependents” eligible for a minimum payment of $100,000. In a statement about the proposal, Assemblyman Kim said: “The Justice for Nursing Home Victims Act will make it very expensive for our state and the nursing home industry to commit eldercide. At the peak of the pandemic, it is abundantly clear that our state government’s only motivating factor was protecting industry profits over people’s lives… We must make it prohibitively costly for others to harm older adults. To do otherwise would be to normalize ‘eldercide’ and enable the complete abandonment and neglect of older adults for ‘productive members’ of society.”