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Pennsylvania Superior Court extends corporate negligence theory to nursing homes.

October 1, 2010
Scampone v. Grane Healthcare Company, et al., 2010 PA Super 124 (J. Bowes, July 15, 2010)

The Pennsylvania Superior Court held that a nursing home could be found liable under a corporate negligence theory. The court found that a nursing home is analogous to a hospital in the level of its involvement in a patient's overall health care. A nursing home provides comprehensive and continual physical care for its patients and the degree of involvement in the care of patients of skilled nursing home facilities is markedly similar to that of a hospital and bears little resemblance to the sporadic care offered on an out-patient basis in a physician's office. A finding of corporate negligence could be premised upon the existence of chronic understaffing at a nursing home such that the employees were incapable of performing appropriate care to the nursing home residents. The court noted that one of the duties expressly imposed under Thompson v. Nason Hospital, 591 A.2d 703 (Pa. 1991) is to formulate, adopt, and enforce adequate rules and policies to ensure quality care for patients. The Scampone Court held that if a health care provider fails to hire adequate staff to perform the functions necessary to properly administer to a patients' needs, it has not enforced adequate policies to ensure quality care. Finally, in terms of punitive damages, the court found that the defendant nursing home and defendant management company both acted with reckless disregard to the rights of others and created an unreasonable risk of physical harm to the residents of the nursing home. The record was replete with evidence that the facility was chronically understaffed and complaints from staff continually went unheeded. Furthermore, not only were the defendants aware of the understaffing that was leading to improper care, they also deliberately altered records, such as altering ADLs that actually established that certain care was not rendered, medication records were falsified, and they increased staffing levels during state inspections and then reduced same after the inspection was concluded.

Case Law Alert - 4th Qtr 2010

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