Pursuing Nursing Home Negligence in Massachusetts: Potentially Going Beyond Just Suing the Nursing Home

Legal News GavelAccording to research by the Urban Institute, nearly 70% of people age 65 and older will develop disabilities during their lifetimes, and more than one-third (35%) of people in that age group will need nursing home care at some point. When we entrust a cherished loved one to the care of a skilled nursing facility, we are placing the highest level of trust in them. Unfortunately, sometimes, those facilities fail to meet the standard of care the law requires of them. When they do, and that neglect leads to harm (or even death), you are entitled to hold them accountable, which involves retaining an experienced Massachusetts nursing home negligence attorney and pursuing legal action.

When an injury or death happens, you may have to deal with multiple entities, including the facility, insurance companies, and outside entities hired by the insurers. In some situations, the mistreatment doesn’t end with the substandard care your loved one received in the nursing home. Sometimes, the facility’s insurers can continue the mistreatment by the way they interact with you after the injury or death has taken place. When that happens, your case may involve more than just pursuing a nursing home negligence action against the facility alone; it may also mean taking on the insurance companies. That was the case for one man, Garrick, who sued following the 2008 death of his elderly mother in a nursing home in Danvers.

Reports of the events leading up to Garrick’s mother’s death were horrific. The 92-year-old Genevieve was rushed to the hospital after she fell from her wheelchair. Hospital staff discovered that Genevieve had “a festering pressure sore on her back, acute appendicitis, a urinary tract infection so severe it had invaded her blood stream, kidney failure, uncontrolled diabetes, and severe dehydration,” according to a Boston Globe report.

Garrick sued the nursing home operator in state court. While the case was still pending, the son offered to settle for $3 million. The third-party administrator (in other words, the outside company the insurer hired to provide “claims adjusting and administrative services” for claims against the insurance company’s clients) did not accept the settlement offer. The jury ultimately returned a verdict for the plaintiff and a damages award of $14.4 million.

How a Nursing Home Negligence Case May Become Something More

Thus, the jury thought Garrick’s case was worth in excess of $14 million, but the administrator refused to settle for a mere $3 million. When situations like that happen in Massachusetts, they may give you the right to pursue additional legal action against the insurance entities. That’s because Massachusetts has an unfair settlement practices statute that applies to insurance companies. That statute requires insurance companies to engage in the “prompt, fair and equitable settlements of claims.” When they don’t, you can sue under the consumer protection statute.

That’s what Garrick did in his case. The administrator tried to escape liability by arguing that it was not engaged in the business of insurance in Massachusetts, so it couldn’t be liable under a statute that governs insurance practices. The court in Garrick’s case ruled against the administrator and in favor of the plaintiff. The ruling is important in that it highlights the extent of the rights you have as a plaintiff in a case that arises from an unfair insurance settlement claim. In these cases, the law doesn’t just limit you to seeking recovery from the insurance company itself, so you can also seek damages from third-party entities that act on behalf of the insurance companies. The opinion explains that anyone whose “role was to interpose itself between the insurer and the claimant” is subject to the requirements of the statute and can be potentially liable.

Any time a loved one is hurt or dies in the care of a nursing home, it is a stressful time. It is, however, also an important time because you may have certain rights if the harm was a result of the facility’s negligence. Sometimes, a nursing home negligence case can involve more than just claims against the facility; you may also have rights to pursue the home’s insurer and related entities too. To understand, safeguard, and pursue your rights under the law fully, you need Massachusetts counsel who is familiar with all of the aspects of cases that involve nursing home negligence. As with all legal actions, you have a limited time allowed by the law to act, so you should not delay. Reach out to skilled Plymouth County nursing home negligence lawyer Michael S. Mehrmann. Our team is proud to assist and represent nursing home negligence victims and their families from across Plymouth County, including in Kingston, Plymouth, Marshfield, Hanson, Carver, Pembroke, and Duxbury. To find out more about how we can help you, call (781) 585-3911 or contact us online.