Fourteen vulnerable seniors prematurely died when their nursing home lost power for days after Hurricane Irma. Now families and other concerned Fort Lauderdale residents are asking who will be held accountable for these lost lives. We have already covered this topic in the immediate aftermath of the storm, but new details are emerging as various institutions and political forces try to shift and divert the blame. What type of wrongful death suits could the families of the deceased bring, and against whom?
Lack of regulation costs lives
This storm highlights a problem with Florida nursing homes like The Rehabilitation Center of Hollywood Hills, in that there has never been a requirement for backup generators or other power supplies in case of emergencies. Governor Scott did issue an emergency rule delineating the need for all nursing homes to maintain a four-day backup power supply. However, the reactionary ruling only gave nursing homes 60 days to implement the costly plans, without any governmental support for the costs of purchase or installation. The emergency ruling is set to expire in mid-December, as it only has a 90-day lifespan.
Governor Scott is now working with experts and industry leaders to develop state legislation to address this issue over the long-term. No law could be put in place before Jan 8 when the next state legislative session begins, leaving a concerning gap in requirements for nursing homes. In the interim, The Rehabilitation Center of Hollywood Hills has closed its doors, after being fined over $20,000 per day by Medicare for the period when residents were without lifesaving air conditioning.
Wrongful death civil cases on the horizon
Wrongful death suits exist to allow families of individuals who have died to hold those accountable legally and financially responsible, when the victim cannot speak or advocate for him or herself. Family can be parents, children, spouses, or any other relative who is even partially dependent upon the victim for support. While it is unlikely that the nursing home residents who passed away have living parents (most of the victims were over 90 years old), many certainly have spouses or children who miss them terribly. The types of financial responsibility covered by a wrongful death suit are varied, including:
- Loss of support and services with interest
- Loss of companionship, protection, mental pain, and suffering for a spouse or child
- Loss of earnings of the deceased
- Loss of prospective net accumulations of the estate
- Medical and funeral expenses
While The Rehabilitation Center of Hollywood Hills is closed, individuals who may have reasonably been expected to either prevent or ameliorate the circumstances leading to the senior citizens’ deaths may also be held liable, including various staff members, any inspectors of the facility, authorities who ignored calls from the nursing home for help, and Florida Power and Light.
Our empathetic Fort Lauderdale wrongful death lawyers are here to assist your family if you have lost a loved one during or after Hurricane Irma through the actions, inactions, or negligence of another person. For a no-cost initial consultation, please phone Yeboah Law Group at 1-800-TELL-SAM or complete our contact form. We take cases on a contingency fee basis, so if you do not get results, we do not get paid.