The COVID19 pandemic has brought to light deficiencies in preparedness for virus outbreaks more than any other event in recent memory. This lack of foresight and preparation has been made most obvious by the shocking number of deaths encountered in Pennsylvania nursing homes.
AG Josh Shapiro Takes Action
The COVID19 nursing home lawyers at Schuster Law were proud to see that, in mid-May, Pennsylvania Attorney General Josh Shapiro opened a criminal investigation into numerous nursing homes.
In a public statement, the State AG’s office expressed grave concern at the proportion of COVID19 deaths in nursing homes when compared to the rest of the state. Indeed, more than 50% of COVID19 deaths in PA occurred in nursing homes. The Attorney General also commented on how the caretakers would be held accountable in criminal court if they were found to have been negligent in their duty to save the lives of their residents.
Nursing homes and other kinds of long-term care facilities generally house persons whose immune systems are immuno-compromised, which means they are less likely to be able to fight off a virus or bacterial infection. This was true before the outbreak of COVID19, so one could expect the facility to understand the risks that their residents face. Correspondingly, they should also want to do everything in their power to mitigate risks to the health and wellbeing of their residents. And yet, by failing to adequately prepare and prevent such a virus from harming their residents, nursing homes could be considered negligent. Ultimately, AG Shapiro’s office will hold the last word on whether any of the individual nursing homes being investigated will be charged, though an investigation is a promising first step.
No specific facilities were named as being under investigation, though some patient care centers have already garnered attention for potential mismanagement during this crisis. For instance, a facility in Beaver County was put under the control of a temporary manager placed by the state’s Health Department; the National Guard was deployed to about a dozen others for support as well.
Along with the Attorney General’s announcement, state officials also indicated that all residents and staff at nursing homes throughout the state will be subjected to COVID19 testing. As has been seen elsewhere, this measure is likely to help control the spread of the virus among nursing home populations, and will hopefully aid in saving lives.
(The following statistics are through the month of May 2020, though the prevalent trend in infections could be expected to continue increasing.)
- 2,600+ residents have died
- 12,000+ residents infected
- 550+ staff infected
Civil Claims Against Nursing Home For COVID19
With the AG’s criminal investigation into nursing home deaths underway, individuals who may have already been exposed to COVID19 in a PA nursing home may be wondering if they have the right to pursue a legal claim. They may also be wondering if the official criminal investigation must find wrongdoings for them to be able to do so, so Schuster Law’s team is here to answer this important question:
No. A nursing home does not have to be found guilty of criminal wrongdoing by the Attorney General’s office for a victim of their negligence to seek damages. In fact, no criminal charges have to be filed against the nursing home at all for a civil claim to have the potential to win in court. The strong tradition of civil justice in the State of Pennsylvania permits persons (or their family members) affected by negligence to file a lawsuit against nursing homes for COVID19 exposure.
However, this kind of case can be extremely complex. Having an experienced legal team by your side can make a significant difference in the outcome of your case. For that reason, we highly suggest getting in touch with our team as soon as possible if you suspect a loved one was exposed to the coronavirus in a PA nursing home. We offer free legal consultations and will be able to explain all of the legal options at your disposal.
In the end, the choice to fight for justice is yours. But we will make sure you have the proper information at your disposal before you make such an important decision for loved ones and yourself.