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Nursing home proposal will cap lawsuits

By ALISA ULFERTS

© St. Petersburg Times, published February 15, 2001


TALLAHASSEE -- Any so-called nursing home reform package lawmakers consider this year will include a cap on lawsuits, according to the lawmaker sponsoring the bill.

State Sen. Ginny Brown-Waite, R-Brooksville, said Wednesday that the proposal her office is ironing out will include some limits on attorney's fees and damages and will encourage people to go through arbitration. But it also will sharply increase minimum staffing levels and beef up the state's regulation of nursing homes.

She outlined her proposal the same day that the Florida Health Care Association, a nursing home association representing mostly for-profit companies, distributed a report that it said showed that nursing home lawsuits in Florida have reached "astronomical levels."

That's especially true for large for-profit nursing home chains, said Theresa Bourdon, the managing director for Aon Rick Consultants, the company that completed the $50,000 study.

Associated Industries of Florida president Jon Shebel said that's because lawyers target those companies to sue.

"The trial lawyers will pick the companies they think can pay the settlements," said Shebel, whose group favors lawsuit caps and improved care in nursing homes.

Several organizations representing trial lawyers and nursing home residents countered with their own news conference and said for-profits are sued more often because they have fewer staff and thus more problems with patient care.

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