June 15 is World Elder Abuse Awareness Day. It was launched by the World Health Organization and the United Nations and International Network for the Prevention of Elder Abuse. This day is observed to provide an opportunity for communities around the world to promote a better understanding of abuse and neglect of the elderly by raising awareness of the economic, cultural, and social processes that contribute elder abuse and neglect.
Ironically, in the same month which has been dedicated to elder abuse awareness, Senator Elder Vogel (R) has sponsored a bill that could needlessly endanger thousands of senior citizens in Pennsylvania. Vogel is the prime sponsor of Senate Bill 747 which calls for a cap on punitive damages against assisted living facilities and long-term care nursing homes. Punitive damages are meant to punish reckless and wanton conduct. It would limit punitive damages to 200% of the compensatory damages awarded.
This is significant because the threat of punitive damages is the only real incentive motivating nursing homes to provide high quality care to our parents and grandparents. This is because the typical nursing home claimant has no meaningful compensatory damages. Instead, the only way a resident and their families can obtain redress for the harm caused to them is through punitive damages.
If passed, this bill will jeopardize the health and safety of Pennsylvania’s most vulnerable citizens by allowing the nursing home industry to operate with impunity. Contrary to popular belief, most nursing homes are not non-profit or run by religious organizations. Instead, this is a multi-billion dollar industry dominated by nursing homes which are run by large for-profit companies. For-profit nursing home facilities are notorious for under-staffing homes and cutting resources to razor this levels in order to reap huge profits.
As a nursing home abuse lawyer, I’ve heard more than my share of horror stories from family members of nursing home residents who have suffered heartbreaking neglect and abuse as a result of understaffed nursing homes or inhumane treatment. It is puzzling to this writer why Senator Vogel wants to limit damages meant to punish bad behavior that is inflicted on elderly and defenseless nursing home residents.
Contact Your State Senator and Voice Your Opposition to Senate Bill 747
I encourage anyone who reads this article and wants to protect the rights, health and safety of senior citizens to contact their state senator to explain why this bills is bad for Pennsylvania. Tell them that elder abuse and neglect will not be tolerated.
I have reached out to Senator Farnese in my district, as well as several other senators. A copy of my message to Senator Farnese is included below.
Dear Senator Farnese –