In Wake of Florida Nursing Home Deaths Ruled Homicides, Important Changes Coming
In the fall, we reported on the September tragedy at the Hollywood Hills nursing home, whereby a number of residents were found dead after the havoc that Hurricane Irma wreaked.
In late December, twelve out of fourteen of those deaths were declared homicides, and steps were taken to prevent similar tragedies in the future.
Hollywood Hills Catastrophe
The Hollywood Hills facility—located just south of Fort Lauderdale—lost power during Hurricane Irma and, as a result, could not provide air conditioning to its residents in the midst of significant heat. After the third day without power passed, many residents started showing signs of distress. By the time some were evacuated to the hospital across the street, several had already died. Sadly, more would follow.
Homicide Ruling & Wrongful Death Lawsuits
The criminal investigation that followed is still ongoing, although, as we mentioned, twelve out of fourteen of the deaths at the facility have already been ruled homicides (meaning that they involved the unlawful killing of the residents).
Several wrongful death lawsuits have also been filed by family members of those who suffered and died. Wrongful death lawsuits can typically be filed by parties in interest, such as immediate family members (spouses, children, parents, etc.). Depending upon the state, others are also sometimes empowered to file litigation; for example, Florida defines “survivors” covered under the wrongful death statute as children, parents, spouses and, when partly or wholly dependent on the decedent for support or services, any blood relatives and adoptive siblings.
Facility Fighting License Revocation
Although the license for the Hollywood Hills facility has since been revoked and important attention brought to this issue, the facility is still fighting the revocation, arguing that the fault lies with the power authority, state officials, and the governor, all who should have assisted in getting the power turned back on, but did not.
Florida’s governor also issued an emergency order requiring all nursing homes and similar facilities to have emergency backup generators and enough fuel to cover four days in the instance of a power outage. Most of the nursing homes have complied, with others fighting with the Governor’s office over details such as deadlines. Florida also has a number of upcoming bills in the coming year’s legislative session that will address important issues like these. The state has also created a specific investigative office to police Florida’s nursing home issues.
Holding Florida Facilities Accountable
If you or a loved one has suffered because of intentional, unlawful, or negligent behavior, you have the power to hold them accountable. Sometimes filing litigation is the only way to ensure that it doesn’t happen again to someone in the future.
For additional information and an in-depth analysis, contact the experienced personal injury and wrongful death attorneys at Lavalle, Brown & Ronan. We serve clients in Boca Raton, Florida and surrounding areas.