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Can a Nursing Home be Liable for Harm Caused by Employees?

The answer to the above question is, generally, yes.

Nursing homes can be liable for harm caused by their employees because of the legal doctrine of respondeat superior (Latin for, “let the master answer”). This doctrine holds that a company is responsible for the acts of its employees if the employee commits those acts within the scope of their employment. It is fairly easy to invoke the doctrine of respondeat superior against nursing homes because nursing homes owe their patients an extraordinarily high duty of care.

In fact, this duty of care has been outlined by the Florida legislature as a set of residents’ rights. In relevant part, the statute1 reads: “[All patients have the right to be free from mental and physical abuse, corporal punishment, extended involuntary seclusion, and from physical and chemical restraints.”

While the doctrine of respondeat superior will allow a plaintiff in a nursing abuse action to reach the nursing home itself for the actions of its employees, there are a variety of different theories under which a nursing home or its employees can be sued if harm comes to one of its residents. Let’s take a look at a few of them most common theories below.

Negligence

Negligence requires a showing of (1) a duty owed to the plaintiff, (2) a breach of that duty, (3) causation, and (4) damages. Because nursing homes owe a very high duty of care to their residents, any conduct by employees that falls short of that duty can expose the nursing home to legal liability. Some of the more common negligence actions brought against nursing homes are negligent personal supervision and care, negligent hiring and retention of employees, negligent maintenance of the premises, and negligent selection or maintenance of equipment.

Breach of Contract

When a resident enters a nursing home, he or she enters into a contract with the nursing home that sets out the services the facility will provide and the cost of those services. Because abuse is contrary to the to the promises made in such contracts, a plaintiff can bring an action for breach of contract against the nursing home. Even though the breach was carried out by an employee, the nursing home itself can be held liable through respondeat superior if it can be shown that the employee was acting within the scope of his or her employment when the breach occurred.

Criminal Charges

Nursing home abuse is a crime in Florida. The law splits liability into three categories: abuse, aggravated abuse, and criminal neglect. Depending on the severity of the abuse, a person found guilty of nursing home abuse can be punished by up to 30 years in prison.

Regulatory Noncompliance

Nursing homes are subject to a very strict set of regulatory standards that are designed to maintain the health and safety of the facilities. In Florida, these standards are known as the Minimum Standards for Nursing Homes.2 Any violation of these regulations that leads to the harm of a resident can open the nursing home to civil liability.

Contact a Clearwater, FL Nursing Home Abuse Lawyer

If you suspect that a loved one has been abused by an employee of a nursing home like Brookdale Senior Living, you may have a claim against the nursing home itself. Please contact the nursing home attorneys at the Dolman Law Group for a free consultation by calling 727-451-6900.

Florida Nursing Home Abuse Attorneys

1http://www.leg.state.fl.us/statutes/index.cfm?App_mode=Display_Statute&Search_String=&URL=0400-0499/0400/Sections/0400.022.html

2https://www.flrules.org/gateway/ChapterHome.asp?Chapter=59A-4