Civil Justice System Uncovers Abuse and Neglect of Elderly Americans

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For Immediate Release: October 7, 2010

Contact: Ray De Lorenzi
202-965-3500 ext. 8369
media.replies@justice.org

Civil Justice System Uncovers Abuse and Neglect of Elderly Americans

New AAJ report shows how litigation holds nursing homes, insurance companies accountable when they target nation’s seniors

Washington, D.C.—A new report released today by the American Association for Justice (AAJ) illustrates how the civil justice system is the most effective force in uncovering abuses by corporate nursing homes and insurance companies that target elderly Americans.

There are 1.5 million elderly Americans currently residing in nursing homes – facilities that are now operated by mostly large corporate chains banking on the upcoming influx of baby boomers. Many of these vulnerable residents have suffered abuse by staff members and even died from dehydration or infection caused by inadequate care. The report explains how litigation has revealed this neglect and abuse and allowed residents and their families to hold offending corporations accountable.

“Corporate nursing homes and insurance companies have continually chosen to put profits ahead of the well-being of our most vulnerable population,” said AAJ President Gibson Vance. “Where regulatory and legislative bodies have been unable to cope with this distressing rise of neglect and abuse of our elderly, the civil justice system has stepped into the breach.”

A common theme in the report is abuse by insurance companies taking advantage of senior citizens. It highlights the story of a South Dakota farmer named Rudy, who was one of a flood of patients that companies signed up for long-term care insurance in the 1990s. Rudy moved into a nursing home at his doctor’s suggestion, only to have his benefits cut after three years when the company declared his care was no longer “medically necessary,” despite faithfully paying his monthly premium.

Thousands of seniors met similar fates as insurance companies miscalculated mortality rates and searched for ways to deny claims and cut off benefits, figuring few of their terminated policyholders would fight back. Trial attorneys across the country eventually found evidence of corporate programs aimed at terminating seniors’ benefits, and helped stop these deplorable practices.

Unfortunately, while litigation has revealed incidences of abuse and neglect, many other offenses never see the light of day due to nursing homes inserting forced arbitration clauses in the fine print of lengthy admission contracts. Residents and their families often sign these contracts while under considerable stress and anxiety without realizing they are being stripped of their access to court. Congress has introduced legislation to ban forced arbitration in nursing home and other consumer contracts.

The report, titled “Standing up For Seniors: How the Civil Justice System Protects Elderly Americans,” can be found at www.justice.org/seniors.  AAJ has previously released reports examining the role of the civil justice system in improving cars and the environment, which can also be found in the Research section of http://www.justice.org/.

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