Valley Patriot Staff

Nursing home litigation is a fast growing area of legal practice in Massachusetts. With approximately 600 nursing homes in Massachusetts and over 50,000 nursing home residents at any given time, issues of abuse and neglect are increasing everywhere.  

Of course, the nursing home industry blames Medicare and Medicaid reimbursement rates as the problem. “But the real problem stems from poor management and a philosophy of profit over care by nursing home administrators” states Attorney David J. Hoey, who has been representing victims of nursing home abuse and neglect for six years.   Hoey says that, by representing seniors who have been abused or neglected in nursing homes, he believes he has improved the quality of life for those living in nursing homes and, at the same time, developed a practice that can be financially rewarding.  

For many years, attorneys in Massachusetts took little interest in pursuing nursing home cases based on the mistaken belief that an injury to an elderly patient was not financially worth pursuing.  

Recently, there has been greater recognition that nursing home cases do, indeed, have value and, in some instances, multi-million-dollar values. Hoey says he has been successful in such cases.  

The majority of nursing home cases involve permanent injuries. Common injuries or health issues suffered by nursing home residents include: burns/scalding, dehydration, malnutrition and loss of weight, bedsores, aspiration, fecal impaction leading to septic shock, broken hips and fractures, physical/mental abuse, over or under medication, gangrene, urinary tract infections, and poor physical or dental hygiene. Not only do these and other injuries or health issues impact quality of life, in some cases they can be fatal.   While many family members may be hesitant to file a lawsuit or even speak to an attorney, it is important to remember that the threat of a lawsuit is an incentive for nursing homes to improve the quality of care.  

Atty. Hoey says that he has seen a dramatic decrease in nursing home abuse and neglect in Massachusetts in the six years he has been representing nursing home residents and their families.  

The nursing home industry has lobbied for tort reform and for caps on recovery. By claiming that the high cost of malpractice insurance is due to increases in the number of lawsuits and the size of jury verdicts, the nursing home industry has been successful in putting such reforms in place in many states.  

However, attorney Hoey says that if one were to examine whether insurance premiums for nursing homes have decreased in those states that have instituted tort reform, the answer would be no. Atty. Hoey is quick to point out though that improving the quality of care in Massachusetts’ nursing homes should start with educating the public and properly training the care givers and that litigation should be the last option.

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