THIS STORY IS DEVELOPING AND WILL BE UPDATED AS MORE INFORMATION COMES IN
Hollywood, FL – Many media outlets have reported that at least 8 people died and several others were injured at the Rehabilitation Center at Hollywood Hills as a result of heat exhaustion and other related issues after parts of the nursing home were left without power following Hurricane Irma. The residents continued to live in sweltering heat following Hurricane Irma without any working air conditioning, according to news reports.
If you had a family member staying at the Rehabilitation Center at Hollywood Hills, you can call us at 954-515-5000 or submit your question online for a free consultation. We are open after hours as well. We can investigate this incident and fight to get answers as to what happened, how it happened, and how it could have been prevented. Families deserve answers and justice.
As an attorney who has represented victims of nursing home neglect and abuse, and wrongful death and injury claims against group homes and assisted living facilities, these deaths are often foreseeable, preventable and the result of negligence. Based on the reports, the deaths and injuries here may also be the result of gross negligence, where there was a willful, wanton disregard for the safety of the residents. If so, all those responsible could potentially face punitive damages, in addition to criminal penalties and punishment, and civil claims for wrongful death and negligence.
A criminal investigation was underway, and families could consider filing wrongful death lawsuits against the facility, FPL and others who may be responsible.
Who is the Rehabilitation Center of Hollywood Hills?
According to the Florida Department of Health, the Rehabilitation Center of Hollywood Hills is licensed as a pharmacy. According to the Florida Agency For Healthcare Administration, the facility is also licensed as a Nursing Home. The type of license for the facility is important in understanding the rules and laws that apply to it. Different facilities have different rules, as group homes and assisted living facilities (ALFs) may have different requirements under the law.
The Agency For Healthcare Administration notes several prior complaints and citations against this facility is just the 2 years since it was licensed. For example, a 2016 investigative report noted that the facility had as much as an 8% medication error rate during their observation.
In just March of 2017, the facility was cited for additional violations of Florida law, according to a March 2017 investigative report.
Facility Cited in 2016 for Failing to Maintain Generator
According to a 2016 report from the Agency For Healthcare Administration, “Based on observation, record review, and staff interview, the facility failed to maintain the emergency generator to manufacture and code requirements. This deficient practice affects 7 of 7 smoke compartments and all occupants in these areas. The facility has the capacity for 152 beds and at the time of survey the consensus was 150.”
Further, the findings stated that the investigator was “accompanied by the Maintenance Director during record interview,” and “the facility was not able to produce any written documentation to substantiate the emergency generator, which is a temporary generator, had been replaced nor had plans for a permanent generator installation been submitted as required by the letter from Office of Plans and Construction”.
At some point thereafter, the facility hired NAYA Architects, Inc. according to the ACHA report.
There were also several other inspections of the property based on apparent complaints which were not substantiated.
Florida Nursing Home Abuse Laws
Several laws may apply in this case. Families of those who lost their lives and of those still alive may have a lot of rights to fight for justice.
Right To Be Free From Physical Or Mental Abuse
Under Florida Statute 400.022 (o), all licensees of nursing home facilities shall adopt and make public a statement of the rights and responsibilities of the residents of such facilities and shall treat such residents in accordance with the provisions of that statement. This includes the right to be free from mental and physical abuse, and extended involuntary seclusion.
Two Year Statute Of Limitations
Under both Florida’s Wrongful Death Act and Florida’s Nursing Home laws, a victim or their Estate has 2 years from the time of the incident to file a lawsuit against all parties who may be responsible for the injuries or death of the resident. Under Florida’s nursing home statute 400.0236, any action for damages must be commenced within 2 years from the time the incident giving rise to the action occurred or within 2 years from the time the incident is discovered or should have been discovered with the exercise of due diligence.
Nursing Home Has 30 Days To Return Account Balance
Florida’s nursing home statute states that upon the death of a resident with personal funds deposited with the facility, the facility must convey within 30 days the resident’s funds, including interest, and a final accounting of those funds, to the individual or probate jurisdiction administering the resident’s estate, or, if a personal representative has not been appointed within 30 days, to the resident’s spouse or adult next of kin named in the beneficiary designation form provided for in s. 400.162(6).
Florida’s Wrongful Death Act For Nursing Home Victims
Florida law provides for who can bring a claim for the death of a nursing home resident caused by the negligence of the facility, and what damages the Estate of the victim can recover.
Pursuant to Florida Statute 768.21, all potential beneficiaries of a recovery for wrongful death, including the decedent’s estate, may be entitled to the following damages:
(1) Each survivor may recover the value of lost support and services from the date of the decedent’s injury to her or his death, with interest, and future loss of support and services from the date of death and reduced to present value. In evaluating loss of support and services, the survivor’s relationship to the decedent, the amount of the decedent’s probable net income available for distribution to the particular survivor, and the replacement value of the decedent’s services to the survivor may be considered. In computing the duration of future losses, the joint life expectancies of the survivor and the decedent and the period of minority, in the case of healthy minor children, may be considered.
(2) The surviving spouse may also recover for loss of the decedent’s companionship and protection and for mental pain and suffering from the date of injury.
(3) Minor children of the decedent, and all children of the decedent if there is no surviving spouse, may also recover for lost parental companionship, instruction, and guidance and for mental pain and suffering from the date of injury. For the purposes of this subsection, if both spouses die within 30 days of one another as a result of the same wrongful act or series of acts arising out of the same incident, each spouse is considered to have been predeceased by the other.
(4) Each parent of a deceased minor child may also recover for mental pain and suffering from the date of injury. Each parent of an adult child may also recover for mental pain and suffering if there are no other survivors.
(5) Medical or funeral expenses due to the decedent’s injury or death may be recovered by a survivor who has paid them.
(6) The decedent’s personal representative may recover for the decedent’s estate the following:
(a) Loss of earnings of the deceased from the date of injury to the date of death, less lost support of survivors excluding contributions in kind, with interest. Loss of the prospective net accumulations of an estate, which might reasonably have been expected but for the wrongful death, reduced to present money value, may also be recovered:
1. If the decedent’s survivors include a surviving spouse or lineal descendants; or
2. If the decedent is not a minor child as defined in s. 768.18(2), there are no lost support and services recoverable under subsection (1), and there is a surviving parent.
(b) Medical or funeral expenses due to the decedent’s injury or death that have become a charge against her or his estate or that were paid by or on behalf of decedent, excluding amounts recoverable under subsection (5).
(c) Evidence of remarriage of the decedent’s spouse is admissible.
(7) All awards for the decedent’s estate are subject to the claims of creditors who have complied with the requirements of probate law concerning claims.
Punitive Damage Awards Against Nursing Homes
Florida’s nursing home law also allows victims to recover punitive damages, and sets certain limits on how much a victim could recover. Florida Statute 400.0238 provides that when punitive damages are awarded, the victim can recover at least the greater of:
- Three times the amount of compensatory damages awarded to each claimant entitled thereto, consistent with the remaining provisions of this section; or
- The sum of $1 million.
However, where the fact finder determines that the wrongful conduct proven under this section was motivated primarily by unreasonable financial gain and determines that the unreasonably dangerous nature of the conduct, together with the high likelihood of injury resulting from the conduct, was actually known by the managing agent, director, officer, or other person responsible for making policy decisions on behalf of the defendant, it may award an amount of punitive damages not to exceed the greater of:
- Four times the amount of compensatory damages awarded to each claimant entitled thereto, consistent with the remaining provisions of this section; or
- The sum of $4 million.
Where the fact finder determines that at the time of injury the defendant had a specific intent to harm the claimant and determines that the defendant’s conduct did in fact harm the claimant, there shall be no cap on punitive damages.
One question that may arise in this case is what negligence, if any, caused harm to the residents, and whether the wrongful conduct, if any, was motivated by unreasonable financial gain.
Media Coverage On Nursing Home Deaths
Some links to media coverage on this developing story:
Florida Nursing Home Attorneys
As a Florida nursing home abuse and neglect attorney who has handled many wrongful death claims throughout the State, it is heartbreaking that these frail and elderly residents had to endure the pain and suffering over the past few days following Hurricane Irma. Hopefully justice will prevail, both criminally and civilly, so no other family will suffer as these residents have and the families of these victims can get the justice they deserve.