Proposal Would Make It Easier for Nursing Home Residents to Sue for Negligence
A dozen nursing home residents in Hollywood, Florida, died when the facility’s air conditioning failed during Hurricane Irma two months ago. The Broward County Medical Examiner’s Office officially ruled the tragedy a homicide after investigators found that facility staff delayed evacuating the residents to a nearby hospital.
But according to an editorial published in the Orlando Sentinel, it will be difficult for the residents’ next of kin to seek compensation because most nursing homes require arbitration for abuse and neglect claims. That requirement is often buried in pages of forms that new residents have to sign when admitted to a particular home, so they aren’t always aware what they have agreed to.
After the Hollywood tragedy, Florida Constitution Revision Commissioner Brecht Heuchan proposed an amendment to the state constitution that would establish certain rights for residents of assisted living and nursing home facilities. The proposed declaration of rights mandates that long-term care residents “be treated courteously, fairly, and with the fullest measure of dignity by the facilities’ owners, operators, employees, professionals, and others who care for residents at such facilities.”
The proposed amendment would also make it more difficult for nursing homes to require arbitration. It guarantees the “right to access courts and a jury system that allows for a speedy trial and relief and remedies” for damages caused “by the abuse, negligence, neglect, exploitation, or violation of residents’ rights.”
Opposition to Proposed Declaration of Rights
Not everyone is in favor of Heuchan’s proposal. The Florida Health Care Association, which lobbies for the state’s nursing home industry and assisted living facilities, called the proposed amendment “glaringly bad” and said that it would “wipe out more than 30 years of meaningful and thoughtful progress designed to ensure that nursing home residents have the right to quality care and the services they need.”
The Constitution Revision Commission only convenes every 20 years. It is a group of 37 people that reviews and recommends changes to the state constitution, like Proposal 88. The commission has until May to finalize proposed amendments for the November 2018 ballot. Voters will then decide what changes they want to make.
Other Ways to Amend the State Constitution
There are five ways to amend the Florida Constitution:
- The Constitution Revision Commission can make recommendations.
- The Florida legislature can issue a joint resolution proposing changes.
- Florida citizens can propose amendments through the initiative process.
- The state can hold a constitutional convention.
- The Taxation and Budget Commission has authority to recommend changes to the taxation and budgetary process.
Florida actually has more ways to amend its constitution than any other state. As a point of comparison, there are only two ways to amend the federal constitution: a constitutional convention called by two-thirds of the state legislatures (which has never happened) and by a proposal by a two-thirds majority vote of both houses of Congress.
Contact Us Today
Contact a Fort Lauderdale personal injury attorney at The Pendas Law Firm today for a free consultation if you or a loved one has been the victim of nursing home abuse or neglect. We will help you recover the compensation that you deserve.
The Pendas Law Firm also represents clients in the West Palm Beach, Jacksonville, Tampa, Fort Myers, Miami, Orlando, Daytona Beach and Bradenton areas.