In April 2014, the Florida Senate passed Senate Bill 670 (SB 670), which discusses Florida nursing home lawsuits. Under SB 670, nursing home lawsuits may no longer involve facility investors or other individuals and entities that are not directly involved in the operation of the nursing home against which the lawsuit is filed. In order to be brought to the governor, the bill must be passed on the Florida House of Representatives.
SB 670 essentially acts to protect investors and other individuals who fund nursing homes but do not necessarily play a role in daily functioning. By protecting these key financial players, proponents of the bill state that it will stimulate investment in existing nursing homes and create additional funding for new facilities. In turn, this additional nursing home funding will help to improve the overall standard of care for nursing home residents in Florida.
Senate Bill 670 is supported by a number of large special interest entities. These entities operate on both state and national levels. They include the American Association of Retired Persons (AARP), the Florida Justice Association, and the Florida Health Care Association.
Senate bill 670 has generated controversy on projected outcomes. Opponents of the bill speculate that the bill could protect certain individuals who may actually hold a level of responsibility in the illegal or wrongful behavior that causes nursing home lawsuits. Some opponents also allege that the bill may hurt residents and target nursing home staff members and managers. Additionally, these investors are typically the wealthiest groups involved in owning and operating a nursing home. Therefore, harmed residents who deserve legal compensation may receive limited damages due to more limited resources for compensation.
The new bill states that nursing home lawsuits may be brought against nursing home licensees, nursing home consulting or management companies, managing employees, and direct contractors and caregivers. The bill also states certain restrictions on claims for punitive damages. Punitive damages exceed simple compensation for the resident’s injury or death, and are essentially awarded in an effort to “punish” the nursing home for its wrongful actions.
The bill states that punitive damages may only be pursued in cases where there is certain evidence to suggest a reasonable basis for recovering punitive damages when specific criteria are applied. Additionally, the Agency for Health Care Administration may revoke an existing license or deny license renewal or ownership change application if a losing nursing home fails to pay a settlement agreement or judgment made against them after a nursing home lawsuit. The bill also involves procedure revisions, such as how patient records are obtained.