A news team in Little Rock, Arkansas, reported that local nursing home residents were being encouraged to sign tort reform documents limiting damages and attorney fees they could receive should they ever become involved in a medical malpractice suit against the facility. More than 20 different nursing home facilities investigated had staff members that had been soliciting signatures from residents with severe mental incapacities. Family members are outraged and appalled at the underhanded action of an establishment they are expected to trust.
According to the Attorney General’s office, as long as a nursing home resident is deemed “competent” a facility is legally allowed to obtain their signature on documents without first consulting with family members or a power-of-attorney. Competency is commonly thought of as a medical determination but it is not, rather it is a legal determination based on medical evidence. Therefore, a resident can be suffering from severe dementia and still be competent because a court has not determined that they are incompetent.
The Arkansas nursing home facility staff members interviewed by the news team were consistently unable to explain the details of what their residents were told prior to their signature collection on these medical reform documents and other political petitions. Though their name was listed as being responsible for the signature collection, the employees continued to redirect focus to someone else on staff who they say was actually responsible for explaining the issue to the residents. One petition reviewed had been signed by the same resident twice and the signatures did not match. Another resident simply signed “X”.
Issue 4, a petition to limit attorney’s fees and economic damages, will likely be a valid ballot issue in November, depending on the Arkansas Supreme Court. Most facilities were using paid canvassers to collect their petition signatures. These canvassers were trained on the issue with only a manual and given a script to read to residents. The script focused on limiting attorney fees and made no mention of economic damages. Essentially, residents are signing their life away without even knowing it.
Nursing home facilities that participate in Medicare or Medicaid must meet federal regulations. The regulations state that facilities cannot interfere or coerce residents, or reprise against residents that exercise their rights, including rights conferred as a citizen of the United States. The regulations also state that incompetent residents must have their signatures on legal documents handled by their court approved power-of-attorney. Competent residents legally may manage their own signatures without any family member or other responsible party coordination.
If you wish to learn more about tort reform, methods used for resident signature collection, medical malpractice lawsuits, or other legal matters pertaining to long term nursing facilities, contact Thomas Law Offices for more information. Tad Thomas, Louisville, KY nursing home neglect lawyer, and his team of personal injury attorneys are ready to assist you at any time.