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Under the Corporate Negligence Doctrine, Pennsylvania Nursing Home Facilities May Be Held Directly Liable for Negligent Care

Posted October 28, 2014 | Uncategorized

Corporate negligence is a doctrine under which a hospital is liable if it fails to uphold the proper standard of care owed the patient, which is to ensure the patient’s safety and well-being while at the hospital. This theory of liability creates a nondelegable duty which the hospital owes directly to a patient. Therefore, an injured party does not have to rely on and establish the negligence of a third party. See Thompson v. Nason Hospital 591 A.2d 703 (1991).

Establishing the Duty of Care: When is a Nursing Home Liable for Injuries to Patients?

It was not until 2012 that the Pennsylvania Supreme Court determined that nursing facilities owed the same nondelegable duty to residents as hospitals and other healthcare entities. See Scampone v. Highland Park Care Ctr., LLC, 618 Pa. 363 (Pa. 2012). The Scampone case effectively permitted a claim of corporate negligence against nursing-care centers and affiliated entities where the resident-entity relationship establishes a duty of care owed to the resident.

To determine whether the relationship between a resident and nursing home facility establishes a legal duty which would permit a corporate negligence claim, the courts look to The Restatement (Second) of Torts § 323 or the factors discussed in Althaus v. Cohen, 562 Pa. 547 (2000). The Althaus factors are: (1) the relationship between the parties; (2) the social utility of the actor’s conduct; (3) the nature of the risk imposed and foreseeability of the harm incurred; (4) the consequences of imposing a duty upon the actor; and (5) the overall public interest in the proposed solution.

In the recent case of Crawley v. Care Pavillion, the Pennsylvania Superior Court examined whether the family of a deceased nursing home resident should have been allowed to present and argue the corporate negligence theory. See Crawley v. Care Pavillion of Walnut Park, 2014 Phila. Ct. Com. Pl. LEXIS 245 (Pa. C.P.2014). In Crawley, the plaintiff alleged the decedent fell and suffered serious injury as a result of Appellant’s lack of nursing staff and assistive devices. Further, the plaintiff alleged a systematic failure of care contributed to the fall. Upon weighing the Althaus factors, the Court found the imposition of a direct duty of care was warranted.

In reaching its decision, the Court in Crawley recognized the great social utility of medical care provided by nursing home facilities to their residents. It found that providing care for those who require skilled nursing, particularly those who are elderly is an important task, and it is important that such care is rendered in a proper manner. The Court wrote, “As the name implies — skilled nursing centers require just that — skilled care… Assuring residents receive proper care through assigning a legal duty prevents undue financial, emotional, and physical burdens on the residents and their families.”

Notably, the Court in Crawley considered the increased expense that may result to a nursing home facility if it is directly liable for negligent care provided to its residents. The Court opined that “Assigning a duty which imputes direct liability ideally creates a consequence of increased oversight and care for those Appellant looks after. While this may come at the risk of increased cost, so be it… properly skilled nursing care at an increased cost is a far better consequence than negligent care provided at a lower cost.”

If you’re concerned that your loved one may be suffering from neglect or abuse at an elder care facility in New Jersey or Pennsylvania, it is critically important that you speak with a nursing home neglect lawyer right away. To arrange for a confidential legal consultation completely free of charge, call nursing home abuse attorney Brent Wieand at (877) 654-3887, or contact our law offices online.