Ohio Legislature Passes Laws Protecting Nursing Homes from Liability During COVID-19 Crisis

Nursing home liability covid coronavirus

Understanding the extent and impact of the COVID-19 pandemic is a difficult task. Researchers are still searching for a cure for the virus, and meanwhile cases are skyrocketing across the US. In Ohio, one of the most impacted sectors of the state has been to residents in nursing homes and other related healthcare fields.

As of June, the Ohio Department of Health found 1,860 of the 2,611 confirmed or probable COVID deaths were those of Nursing home residents. That’s a whopping 70% of total cases, leading to an understandably upset and fearful public. With potential lawsuits looming, Ohio lawmakers are taking steps to address how these cases will be handled.

Two bills have been put in place to protect businesses, especially nursing homes, from COVID related suits: Ohio Legislature House Bill 606 and Senate Bill 308. The spirit of these bills are very similar, but the Senate Bill reaches beyond the protection provided in the House Bill. 

HB 606 was passed on May 28th, 2020, and basically is attempting to protect a variety of groups, particularly health care workers/providers. This bill would grant immunity to healthcare providers from “professional discipline or tort liability for acts, omissions, or decisions related to the provision of health care services, including the decision to withhold health care services.” Furthermore, it would protect them from any liability that was a result of a director’s order or executive order and liability from the inability to diagnose, test, or treat  an illness due to these same circumstances.

While this does provide an enormous amount of protection to providers, they can still be held liable in the instance of “gross negligence” (conduct that is indifferent to the rights of those under their care) or “if their act, omission, decision, or compliance constitutes reckless disregard for the consequences, constitutes willful or wanton misconduct.” 

The last item in the bill grants protection to businesses from suits that claim liability for exposure, transmission, or contraction of COVID-19.  Again, the business can be held liable in the case of reckless or intentional misconduct, and willful wanton misconduct. Beyond this, an important aspect of the bill states that “executive orders, director’s orders, and federal guidance do not establish a new cause of action and are not admissible evidence at trial.”

On June 3rd, 2020 SB 308 was passed, and it expands upon the ideas laid forth in HB 606. It has an identical take for the stance on healthcare providers, and about what can be admissible in court. Yet is has two root components that are extremely different. The first is that beyond protecting a business in the course of business, but also protects them from “liability for any act or omission that may occur in the course of the business providing services as a result of or in response to COVID-19.”

The second aspect that is different from HB 606 is the amount of time this protection is applied. H.B. 606 will apply retroactively from the Governor’s Executive Order 2020-01D, issued on March 9, 2020, through to December 31, 2020, while SB 308 provides no such date of determination. Since no date has been provided, one can assume that this protection will apply for the duration of the pandemic. 

While these bills have passed at their respective levels, they have yet to reach the Governor’s office. These variations will have to be resolved and identical bills passed before they reach that point. Yet unless there is a major shift in perspective in both the House and Senate, it appears that businesses and health care providers will have a considerable amount of protection from liability during the COVID-19 crisis. 

If you or a loved one has been impacted by poor standards of care at an Ohio nursing home, assisted living or long-term care facility, it is vital that you speak with and experienced nursing home attorney. Cowan & Hilgeman has recovered millions of dollars in compensation on behalf of clients who were failed by the people and companies that were supposed to protect them. Understanding the legislative landscape during such uncertain times requires a strong yet empathetic guide. Call (937) 222-2030 today to schedule your free online or phone consultation with one of our nursing home attorneys.


Keeping Your Elderly Relatives Safe During the COVID-19 Outbreak

COVID-19 nursing home

At Cowan & Hilgeman, we try to write articles that are timeless: Questions and answers that will make as much sense in 5 or 10 years’ time as they do today. The present novel Coronavirus outbreak, however, has created a pressing situation that needs to be addressed immediately: How to keep your elderly relatives safe during the COVID-19 pandemic.

Cowan & Hilgeman has developed an excellent reputation in Montgomery County and the Miami Valley for fighting abuse, neglect, negligence and wrongful death in nursing homes. We have written extensively about how to spot potential mistreatment of your elderly loved one while in a nursing home or residential care facility, and what to do if your elderly family member develops a pressure ulcer (otherwise known as a bed sore) while in care.

But what happens when you are unable to visit, monitor and advocate for your elderly family member?

On March 11th 2020, The Ohio Department of Health and the Ohio Department of Veterans Services issued an order limiting the number of nursing home/assisted living visitors to one person per resident per day. Exceptions can be made for end-of-life cases. The order will require that these facilities screen all individuals at every point of entry, including employees, vendors, family members, etc. Each individual will be screened for signs of illness and must submit to a temperature reading to gain entrance. All facilities will be required to keep a log of all who are admitted access.

To reduce the spread of COVID-19, we should all practice ‘social isolation’. This can be especially difficult for those with a parent or relative in residential care. Our elders rely on regular visits for love and support, but also so we can look out for their best interests. If we become sick ourselves, we will not be able to visit them at all, leaving them without an advocate.

Staff shortages in nursing homes and assisted living can be deadly

Aside from dealing with the illness itself, understaffed nursing homes can be incredibly dangerous for residents. Abuse and neglect become a bigger problem as the resident to staff member ratio increases out of control. Neglect and abuse on the part of the nursing home staff can cause psychological problems, physical illnesses and even death among the nursing home residents. Under-staffing of a nursing facility may add to psychological problems and physical illnesses among the staff members as they experience increased stress.

Physically dependent residents suffer the most. Bed-bound patients must be turned and moved regularly to prevent bed sores and muscle atrophy. Incontinence pads and diapers must be changed regularly to prevent infections. Residents who need help getting to the bathroom can instead be left to sit for too long in their own waste, leading to skin and genitourinary infections. Patients who need assistance with grooming, self-care and changing can be left to fend for themselves while more demanding residents dominate the attention of staff, which can lead to depression and physical degradation. If left to their own devices for too long, some residents try to do things unassisted, which can lead to falls and concussions.

Nurses who are understaffed may have problems feeding and giving medications to all of the residents on a routine schedule. This can lead to malnutrition, deficiencies in nutrition and other complications caused by not getting their medications on schedule. Dehydration can be especially dangerous in the elderly.

What you can do to help

1 – Visit as often as you can, as long as you are healthy

It will keep your loved one happier, healthier and safer. You will be able to nip problems in the bud before they become much larger problems that can have much more serious consequences. You can also help to care for your family member to lighten the load on nursing staff.

2 – If you cannot visit, call every day

Ask your relative if they are being properly looked after, if they are being fed, groomed, changed and assisted properly. Ask them if their needs are being met and if they are happy. If the answer to any of your questions is ‘no’, contact the Staff Nurse or management immediately.

3 – Document everything

If your loved one tells you that something is wrong, or if you even suspect that they are being poorly treated or neglected, document everything. What happened, the date and time, who was involved, who you spoke with to address the issue and what their response was. Hopefully, no further action will need to be taken. But if you ever need to take legal action against a nursing home, a well-documented paper trail showing their continued failure to address problems can help enormously.

4 – If you see something obviously dangerous, report it immediately

If nursing home residents are being obviously neglected, report it immediately. The State will take steps to rectify the situation, before it escalates any further. To report patient abuse or neglect to the Ohio Attorney General, click here. To file a complaint to the Ohio Department of Health, call 1-800-342-0553.

Extraordinary circumstances – such as a worldwide pandemic – do not excuse neglect or mistreatment.

It is the duty of nursing home owners to ensure that their clinics are properly staffed at all times.
It is the duty of nursing home management to ensure that their staff are properly trained and able to meet the needs of their residents.
Extraordinary circumstances – such as a worldwide pandemic – do nothing to absolve them of this responsibility. It is understandable that care facilities are occasionally understaffed, but owners and management must make every reasonable effort to boost staff to resident ratios to a safe level. If they fail to meet their most basic obligations, they may be found legally liable for any injuries or deaths that occur as a result of their poor management.

If you see or hear of neglect, negligence or abuse in a nursing home or assisted living facility during the COVID-19 pandemic, do not accept that as an excuse. Neglect, negligence or abuse happen because of poor management. Any explanation other than that is an unacceptable.

Call (937) 222-2030 today to schedule a FREE video / Skype / Facetime consultation with one of Dayton’s top rated personal injury lawyers handling nursing home abuse, neglect and wrongful death cases.

How Much Time do I Have to File a Nursing Home Personal Injury Claim in the State of Ohio?

Nursing Home Negligence

From the moment you or someone you love is injured in a nursing home, the clock starts running on how long you have to file a claim. In Ohio, the Statute of Limitations for a nursing home negligence or injury claim is generally 2 years. If you fail to file suit within that time frame, the defendant (the person you’re trying to sue) will almost certainly file a “motion to dismiss”, and the Court will reject your case on statutory grounds.

Even if you or your loved one was horribly injured due to nursing home negligence or neglect, and they were clearly in the wrong; after two years, they can no longer be held responsible through a personal injury claim.

With a few exceptions:

  • In cases where the victim was ‘of unsound mind’, the time limit in which their next of kin can file a personal injury claim is lifted. Common diagnoses such as Alzheimer’s and dementia could extend the statute of limitations beyond two years. An experienced personal injury attorney will be able to tell you whether the statute of limitations applies in your case.
  • If the defendant “departs from the state” or absconds, or conceals” him or herself within the state of Ohio, the time limit in which to file a personal injury claim does not start again until the person can be located. In other words, if the defendant skips town for a couple of years to avoid taking responsibility for their actions, you have 2 years from the date of their return in which to file a lawsuit.
  • If your Ohio nursing home negligence or injury claim stems from injuries caused by a defective product, a special filing timeline may apply to your case, especially if consumer fraud or a product warranty is involved.

Putting a family member into a nursing home can be extremely difficult. You are trusting strangers with the care, health and happiness of your loved one, which makes it especially upsetting if they are injured or even killed by negligence or neglect.

After a nursing home negligence or neglect injury, it is extremely important to get an experienced, aggressive attorney fighting in your corner. Due to the advanced age and frailty of most nursing home residents, care facilities will often try to explain away or pass off their responsibility as just a natural consequence of being old and frail. “These things just happen sometimes”, they will say. If you suspect negligence or abuse may have contributed to the injury or death of your loved on while in the care of a nursing home, call the experienced nursing home negligence attorneys at Cowan & Hilgeman.

At Cowan & Hilgeman, we have successfully handled countless nursing home negligence cases, including cases that other law firms have rejected. To schedule your FREE consultation with our Dayton Personal Injury Attorney, call (937) 222-2030.

10 Signs of Nursing Home Abuse or Neglect

The decision to place your loved one in a nursing home is often an enormously emotional one. You are trusting perfect strangers with the care and well-being of an important family member, hoping that trained nursing staff can provide them with the best quality of life possible. Thoroughly researching care facilities can reduce the chance that your loved one is mistreated, but even the most well-recommended nursing homes can hide a dark underbelly.

The frailty associated with old age can rapidly accelerate a decline in health and mental state, if the person in question is not properly cared for. Bed sores, in particular, can go from bad to life-threatening in only a few days, which is why it is vital that you remain vigilant in looking out for signs of nursing home abuse and neglect.

Here are the 10 most common signs of nursing home neglect, abuse and negligence:

1 – Dehydration

Elderly people do not feel thirsty in the same way that younger people do, especially when afflicted by Alzheimer’s or Dementia. Dehydration can turn lethal in only a few days, which is why nursing staff must constantly monitor patients’ fluid intake and output. If your loved one complains of being thirsty or frequent headaches, has a dry mouth or skin, or feels dizzy often, this can be a sign that they aren’t getting enough fluids.

2 – Weight Loss

Weight loss is common among new nursing home residents as they adjust to their new environment and food, but this should be actively monitored by doctors and nursing staff with the help of a nutritionist, if necessary. Meal plans should be adjusted to help bring your loved one back up to a healthy weight. Uncontrolled, untreated weight loss is a clear sign that the patient’s basic needs aren’t being met.

3 – Poor Personal Hygiene

Nursing homes that neglect their patients’ personal hygiene are generally obvious from the moment you walk in the door, but individual neglect is unfortunately quite common. If you notice that your loved one hasn’t been bathed as frequently as you would like, voice your concerns immediately to staff. If the problem is not quickly addressed, this can be a sign of more widespread abuse or neglect.

4 – Urinary Tract Infections

Frequent UTIs are a painful symptom of being improperly cared for. If your loved one is forced to wait to use the toilet until staff gets around to helping them, sitting in an adult diaper or soiled underwear for too long, being wiped incorrectly and bathed too infrequently are common reasons a urinary tract infection can develop. They can also be caused by dehydration.

5 – Slip and Falls

Unfortunately, elderly people are always at an increased risk of falling, but if you find that your loved one has fallen frequently or particularly severely, it is important that you find out how and why to prevent re-occurrence.

6 – Dirty clothing, bed clothes and living areas

If you notice odd or foul smells, dirty bed clothes, personal clothing items, overly full trash cans and uncleaned spills, notify staff immediately. Unsanitary conditions can lead to illness and disease, especially among the already frail and medically-compromised.

7 – Over-medication

Some nursing homes have been known to over-medicate their residents to make them more placid, controllable and easy to manage. While it is sometimes necessary to calm patients with Alzheimers or Dementia, psychotropic medication should rarely be used as a long-term treatment plan. If you find that your loved one is often unresponsive, uninterested and zoned-out, it is important to discuss their medication with their doctor. Always feel free to seek a second opinion.

8 – Inexplicable bruising

Elderly people have fragile skin that bruises easily, especially when taking medication to thin the blood. If you notice odd bruises that cannot be easily explained, such as bruises around the wrists or on the breasts/genitals, you may need to conduct a deeper investigation into their care.

9 – Bed Sores

Also known as pressure sores or ulcers, they should not be accepted as a common occurrence in nursing homes. They are always a sign that your loved one is being moved/turned too infrequently, and therefore neglected. Bed sores can go from bad to life-threatening very quickly, so they must be addressed immediately.

10 – Psychological issues

If your loved one becomes quiet, withdrawn, takes less pleasure in things that they are usually interested in, this can be a sign that their psychological state is being neglected. If they engage in self-soothing behaviors such as rocking back and forth, wrist-banging or head nodding, this can be an alarming sign of physical or emotional abuse.

If your loved one displays any of the above signs of nursing home neglect or abuse, fast action is of paramount importance. A diligent, caring nursing staff should take your concerns seriously and formulate a plan of action to address them immediately.

If staff fails to do that, if they try to tell you that you are imagining things or that these are a normal part of life in a nursing home, contact the experienced nursing home abuse attorneys at Cowan & Hilgeman.

There are strict deadlines to file a medical malpractice claim in Ohio, so do not delay in contacting a lawyer that has experience investigating nursing home medical malpractice claims.

The personal injury lawyers at Cowan & Hilgeman have recovered millions in compensation for clients. Our injury lawyers create plans of attack for each case tailored specific to the client’s needs and expectations.

The lawyers at Cowan & Hilgeman handle claims involving personal injury, medical malpractice, nursing home negligence, product liability and wrongful death. We routinely recover compensation on cases that other law firms reject.

Cowan & Hilgeman offers free personal injury case evaluations and only get paid an attorney fee if we win your personal injury case.
Call 937-222-2030 to get your free case evaluation.

Ohio Nursing Home Complaints

In a recent article written by Brandon Klein, Daily Reporter Staff Writer, for the July 12th, 2019 Issue of the Daily Court Reporter, Vol. 148-No.11, Ohio Ranked 21st in the country for nursing home complaints. Mr. Klein’s article, in its entirety, is provided below:

A new analysis shows that Ohio’s nursing homes are in the middle of the pack nationally based on the number of complaints per facility.

The Senior List ranked Ohio No. 21 based on most complaints per nursing home facility last year.

The state averaged 8.37 complaints per facility, costing its nursing homes $1.2 million in penalties from the Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services, according to The Senior List’s “Which States Have The Best And Worst Nursing Homes” report.

The report based its findings on data from the Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services’ 2019 report.

“The number of Americans residing in nursing care facilities has surged over the past half- century, rising more that 200-fold since the 1960s and nearly doubling in just the past 20 years,” the report stated. “As the U.S. population continues to grown older, it seems likely that more and more of us will require the care offered by nursing facilities in our later years because we need the kind of constant, skilled care such facilities offer.”

Washington had highest number of complaints at 18.1 per facility. Washington D.C. came in second at 15.56 complaints per facility, followed by Maryland (14.38), Nevada (13.52), New Mexico (13.26), Delaware (13), California (12.27), Alaska (12.11), Oregon (12.09) and Michigan (11.64).

New Hampshire had the lowest number of nursing home complaints. The state had 2.59 complaints per facility.

Alabama came in second at 3.16 complaints per facility, followed by Rhode Island (3.2), Tennessee (3.51), South Dakota (3.63), Mississippi (3.72), Georgia (3.89), New Jersey (4.12), Louisiana (4.45), Maine (4.69) and New York (4.78).

Nationally, 15,000 nursing homes had a total of 121,000 complaints or eight per facility, costing them $34 million in CMS penalties.

The most common complaint was the quality of care, which made up 19 percent of all complaints nationally, followed by resident rights (13 percent) and pharmacy services (12 percent).

Additionally, the report found:

  • Ohio ranked 16th for sub-standard care complaints with 1.01 such complaints per facility;
  • Ohio had the second lowest percentage of complaints of comprehensive, patient-centered care plans. Such complaints made up 6.1 percent and 21.3 percent in Vermont, the highest in the country;
  • And that Ohio ranked 34th for its percentage of 5-star nursing homes, which made up 19.4 percent of all of the state’s nursing facilities. On the other hand, Ohio ranked 10th for the percentage of 1-star nursing homes, which made up 22 percent of all facilities in the state.

“The choice of where a person spends what probably will be their final months and days on earth is an important one that they should be able to make in consultation with their physicians and families,” the report stated. “And knowledge is power; more and better oversight may well be needed, but families should use all the tools available to ensure the nursing facilities they and their family members use are focused not on maximizing profit but ensuring quality care, freedom and dignity of residents.”

The personal injury lawyers at Cowan & Hilgeman have recovered millions in compensation for our clients. Our lawyers create plans of attack for each case specific to the client’s needs and expectations. The lawyers at Cowan & Hilgeman handle claims involving personal injury, medical malpractice, nursing home negligence, product liability and wrongful death. We routinely recover compensation on cases that other law firms reject.

Cowan & Hilgeman offers free personal injury case evaluations and only get paid an attorney fee if we win your personal injury case.

Call 937-222-2030 to get your free case evaluation.

My family member got a bed sore (pressure ulcer) in a nursing home – what now?

Nursing home negligence and long-term care negligence can be seen in many forms. Unfortunately, victims of nursing home negligence and long-term care negligence are often unable to care for themselves. As family members of the aging population, we trust that nursing homes and long-term care facilities can properly care for our elderly family members and ensure their safety.

Typical indicators of nursing home negligence and long-term care negligence can be seen in the following cases:

  • Bedsores and Pressure Ulcers
  • Dehydration
  • Falls
  • Neglect
  • Abuse
  • Medication Errors
  • Conditions Resulting in Death

Bedsores – also called pressure ulcers and decubitus ulcers – are injuries to skin and underlying tissue resulting from prolonged pressure on the skin. Bedsores most often develop on skin that covers bony areas of the body, such as the heels, ankles, hips, coccyx and tailbone.

What are symptoms of bed sores?

The Mayo Clinic notes that common warning signs of pressure ulcers are:

  • Unusual changes in skin color or texture
  • Swelling
  • Pus-like draining
  • An area of skin that feels cooler or warmer to the touch than other areas
  • Tender areas

What are causes of bed sores?

According to Mayo Clinic, bedsores are caused by pressure against the skin that limits blood flow to the skin. Other factors related to limited mobility can make the skin vulnerable to damage and contribute to the development of pressure sores. The primary contributing factors for bedsores are:

  • Pressure – Constant pressure on any part of your body can lessen the blood flow to tissues. Blood flow is essential to delivering oxygen and other nutrients to tissues. Without these essential nutrients, skin and nearby tissues are damaged and might eventually die.

    For people with limited mobility, this kind of pressure tends to happen in areas that aren’t well-padded with muscle or fat and that lie over a bone, such as the spine, tailbone, shoulder blades, hips, heels and elbows.
  • Friction – Friction occurs when the skin rubs against clothing or bedding. It can make fragile skin more vulnerable to injury, especially if the skin is also moist.
  • Shear – Shear occurs when two surfaces move in the opposite direction. For example, when a bed is elevated at the head, you can slide down in bed. As the tailbone moves down, the skin over the bone might stay in place – essentially pulling in the opposite direction.

What are risk factors for bed sores?

People are at risk of developing bedsores if they lack mobility and are unable to easily change position. Risk factors include:

  • Cellulitis – Cellulitis is an infection of the skin and connected soft tissues. It can cause warmth, redness and swelling of the affected area. People with nerve damage often do not feel pain in the area affected by cellulitis.
  • Bone and joint infections – An infection from a pressure sore can burrow into joints and bones. Joint infections (septic arthritis) can damage cartilage and tissue. Bone infections (osteomyelitis) can reduce the function of joints and limbs.
  • Cancer – Long-term, nonhealing wounds (Majjolin’s ulcers) can develop into a type of squamous cell carcinoma.
  • Sepsis – Rarely, a bedsore leads to sepsis.

Are bed sores preventable?

Bedsores are preventable with adequate medical care. Bed sores can be prevented by:

  • Reducing pressure by the use of regular repositioning every 15 minutes to 2 hours.
  • Using support surfaces such as a mattress, bed and special cushions that help sit or lie in a way that protects vulnerable skin.
  • Adequate nutrition including hydration.
  • Early detection of bed sores which includes properly cleaning and dressing the wound.

If you or a loved one has been the victim of a bedsore or pressure ulcer, the injuries may be a result of medical negligence. There are strict deadlines to file a medical malpractice claim in Ohio, so do not delay in contacting a lawyer that has experience investigating bedsore medical malpractice claims.

The personal injury lawyers at Cowan & Hilgeman have recovered millions in compensation for clients. Our injury lawyers create plans of attack for each case tailored specific to the client’s needs and expectations.

The lawyers at Cowan & Hilgeman handle claims involving personal injury, medical malpractice, nursing home negligence, product liability and wrongful death. We routinely recover compensation on cases that other law firms reject.

Cowan & Hilgeman offers free personal injury case evaluations and only get paid an attorney fee if we win your personal injury case.
Call 937-222-2030 to get your free case evaluation.