Charitable Immunity in Maryland Nursing Home Abuse and Neglect Cases

While most Maryland nursing homes and skilled care facilities are for-profit businesses, some Maryland nursing homes operate as non-profit organizations. The question occasionally arises whether a nursing home’s status as a non-profit organization can affect a resident’s ability to recover for any injuries that were due to the neglect of the facility’s staff members. The answer, as is often the case in legal questions, is “it depends.”

Maryland law offers immunity to both volunteers as well as to charitable organizations. Depending on the specific circumstances of a case, either or both of these immunities may apply. Maryland law defines a charitable organization as one that is tax-exempt under § 501(c)(3) of the Internal Revenue Code.

Under the Maryland Volunteer Service Act, those who volunteer at charitable organizations cannot be held liable for amounts in excess of any personal insurance they carry for any injuries caused by the acts or omissions of “an officer, director, employee, trustee, or another volunteer.” When a volunteer’s actions result in injury to another, the volunteer will be afforded the same protection unless their actions constitute “gross negligence, reckless, willful, or wanton misconduct, or intentionally tortious conduct.” Importantly, the Volunteer Service Act does not grant complete immunity to qualifying volunteers and allows for a Maryland nursing home resident to pursue a claim for compensation. However, the resident will only be able to recover up to the limits of the individual’s insurance coverage.

The above-discussed immunity pertains to the liability of an individual. However, the question of organizational immunity is a different story. There is no Maryland statute providing for immunity of a charitable organization; however, Maryland courts have applied charitable organization immunity in some situations. Specifically, a charitable organization is held to be immune from liability if it has no liability insurance. If an organization has liability insurance, then a resident or resident’s family member can make a claim up to the organization’s policy limit.

The concept behind this immunity is that courts did not want to allow a situation where a charitable organization would be required to use donated funds to cover the costs of a lawsuit. Courts feared that such a process would discourage people from giving money to charitable organizations. Thus, by allowing injury victims to pursue claims against the organization’s insurance policy, the court protects an organization’s donations while allowing those injured by the organization some form of recovery.

Have You Been the Victim of Nursing Home Abuse or Neglect?

If you or a loved one has recently experienced nursing home abuse or neglect while residing in a Maryland nursing home, you may be entitled to monetary compensation, even if you are under the impression that the facility that caused your loved one’s injuries is operating as a non-profit. At the Maryland personal injury law firm of Lebowitz & Mzhen, we help Maryland nursing home residents and their families pursue claims for compensation based on the injuries inflicted by abusive and neglectful staff members. To learn more about how we can help you with your situation, call 410-654-3600 to schedule a free consultation today.

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