As the recent news stories popping up around the state have made clear, the way in which nursing homes are customarily owned and operated has become an extremely contentious topic.
We’ve discussed the way that nursing homes often set up different legal “entities” that shuffle around ownership of the physical building, while others, for instance, own the furniture or run the staffing, but at the end of the day, actual ownership is quite often concentrated into the hands of a select few people — sometimes maybe even just one or two people.
While it’s a general rule of business law that organizing a corporation “shields” the individual people behind it from personally being held liable for debts, obligations, lawsuits, and the like, but when you look at the unique example of nursing homes — where, in Illinois, for instance, even the nurses have recently gone on strike in protest of their own facilities’ management — this seems even more unjust.
This is one of the reasons why the Nursing Home Care Act is so unique — it has a specific provision that directly holds the “powers that be” individually liable for a resident’s death in some instances. Section 2-107 of the Nursing Home Care Act provides, in no uncertain terms, that
“[a]n owner, licensee, administrator, employee or agent of a facility shall not abuse or neglect a resident.”
While it is extremely hard to keep an owner or operator in the case, procedurally speaking, this is a very powerful statute. Essentially, if you can plead and prove that, for instance, the way an owner allocated resources or ran the budget in a way that constitutes neglect (such as where low staffing levels and untrained nurses neglect to check or turn residents who then develop bedsores), then they can personally be held liable for a resident’s injuries and/or death.
Indeed, one Illinois Court of Appeals (the Second District, which covers the “collar counties” around Cook County and the Chicagoland area) recently noted that, under the Act, the owners can be liable for damages, costs, and attorneys’ fees. See Childs v. Pinnacle Health Care, LLC, 399 Ill. App. 3d 167, 180 (2nd Dist. 2010).
While this is far from an easy thing to prove, it shows that the legislature is serious about at least recognizing the problems that arise when nursing home owners under-fund, under-staff, or otherwise mismanage their facilities and then turn around and try to hide behind a “corporate shield.”
You can contact us here 24/7/365 (and we really mean that as we will answer our phone) if you have any questions and to learn how we may be able to help you or your loved one who has been a victim of nursing home abuse or neglect – in particular, you will find that we listen, take your phone calls and e-mails (and even text messages!).
We would be honored to help you with your matters – large or small.
Call us today for any Chicago nursing home abuse and neglect law matter at 312-888-6058.