Mon February 18, 2013
Tort Reform Complicates Nursing Home Lawsuits
The first tort reform law proposed by Governor Scott Walker two years ago was billed as a way to improve the business climate in the state. But a new report by the Wisconsin Center for Investigative Journalism shows the law has made it more difficult to hold nursing homes accountable for wrongdoing by keeping crucial evidence out of court.
The omnibus tort reform measure included a broad package of changes affecting civil and criminal cases.
Representative Jon Richards, a Democrat from Milwaukee, says the new law is making it harder for families to win their cases in court. “The bill was passed, nominally, to produce job creation, but I don’t see how letting abusers off the hook creates a single job. That is a real problem.”
Richards proposed the Senior Citizens Protection Act in 2011 in an effort to undo some of the effects, but it never made it up for a vote. He plans to bring it back this session.
State inspections are done after an incident or death and often provide information on what happened and who was responsible. But under the tort reform law, these records can no longer be used as evidence in civil or criminal cases.
Spokesperson for the American Tort Reform Association in Washington D.C., Darren McKinney, says the long-term care industry had become the target of frivolous lawsuits and something needed to be done: “Without such limits the care becomes impossibly expensive to provide.”
The Wisconsin Center for Investigative Journalism also found that some nursing homes are failing to report deaths and injuries as required by law.