I’m Wendy York from the York Law Firm in Sacramento.
In my experience, there are two different kinds of defense lawyers we routinely come across in our work as plaintiffs’ attorneys. There are the “Janitor Defense Lawyers” and then there are the “Cover-Up Defense Lawyers.”
The Janitor Defense Lawyers are honorable because they say, “My client made a mistake. I need to clean it up and make it right. Let me take care of that. Done.”
Then there are the Cover-Up Defense Lawyers who say, “Let’s hide the mess. Let’s not give the family the records. Let’s not disclose all the facts about what my client actually did.” Those Defense Lawyers and the defendants they represent are the ones who are eventually going to get nailed.
In a cover-up case, a facility neglects or abuses a resident, and they lie to the family, they lie to the family’s attorney, and they lie to the court system. What the cover-up defense lawyers don’t appreciate is that their actions make my case better. The lies will eventually come out, and when they do, they may generate headlines.
In 2017, CNN published a scathing review and investigation of on-going and systematic nursing home abuse and neglect that was documented in all 50 states. The abuse included hundreds of cases of sexual assault perpetrated by caregivers who were entrusted with the health and safety of residents. In Illinois alone, CNN documented 386 allegations of nursing home sexual abuse between 2013 and 2017, 59 of which were substantiated.
Why weren’t more cases of abuse and neglect substantiated? Cover-up defense attorneys know that the residents themselves often cannot give credible testimony. They have memory loss. They have dementia. They are given strong psycho-active drugs that sometimes make it difficult for them to speak up. Those who cannot speak need others to speak for them.
The stories and statistics are gruesome and sickening.
A facility in California allowed a licensed nurse to continue working for weeks despite reports he assaulted a female resident multiple times. The facility was fined $22,000 by the state.
A facility in Texas was fined $116,500 and banned from receiving government reimbursements when an elderly male resident was raped and drugged, but the fine was cut in half because of “financial hardship,” and the ban lasted 11 days.
An 83-year-old woman in Minnesota was violently assaulted by an employee of a nursing home who was the subject of abuse allegations for years. That facility received no penalty at all.
Covering up nursing home abuse isn’t just a despicable act and a human rights atrocity. It’s also a crime.
How we at York Law Firm conduct investigations is by starting with gathering the facts about the injury, then by carefully scrutinizing the hospital records and the nursing home records. We “reverse engineer” the case and determine not only what happened, but why it happened. Institutions and their lawyers routinely try to cover up the misdeeds, but the facts always come out.
Regulators, medical experts, and legal advocates are fighting back by shining a bright light on nursing home abuse.
Tony Chicotel, a staff attorney at California Advocates for Nursing Home Reform said, “Most abuse is undetected and never reported mainly because observable signs are missed or misinterpreted. A little training could go a long way.”
Lieutenant Chris Chandler of the Waynesville, North Carolina Police Department said, “There needs to be a reporting system. The system doesn’t keep track of cases that haven’t been substantiated, and their rules for substantiating a complaint are just astronomical. It’s virtually impossible to substantiate a complaint.”
If you visit a loved one in a nursing facility and something doesn’t seem right, it smells bad or if staff aren’t fully cooperative or responsive, let that intuition be your guide. Give us a call at (916) 643-2200. If my firm can’t help you directly, we can guide you to resources and people who will take your concerns seriously and do something about it.
It’s time to put an end to nursing home abuse and neglect.