A recent Connecticut Supreme Court decision could have a major impact on nursing home litigation.
The case arose out of a 2003 fire in a Hartford nursing home, which killed 16 elderly and disabled individuals. Following the catastrophic event, 13 separate individuals filed suit. However, none of the plaintiffs in the case have received any redress, due to a dispute over the limitations of the nursing home’s professional liability policy.
The fire broke out when a psychiatric patient set her bed on fire with a cigarette lighter. Relatives of 13 of the 16 victims sued the nursing home’s operator for damages, saying it failed to adequately supervise the woman. The lawsuit also made negligence claims for insufficient response and a lack of safety training by the nursing home staff.
The policy limit dispute centered on the meaning of the $1 million coverage versus the total coverage for the company who owned the home (and several others) of $10 million. Specifically contested were the terms “aggregate policy limit.” The Connecticut Supreme Court’s majority opinion held that the policy, when read in whole, meant that the plaintiffs had access to only $1 million for this particular home, and that the $10 million was the limit for all of the company’s homes combined.
Two dissenting justices believed that the terms of the policy were unclear, and that when this is the case, the court should invoke the contract principle of contra proferentum, which states that when the terms of an agreement are susceptible to two equally plausible interpretations, that which would support the claim and cover the loss should be the chosen interpretation.
The attorneys in the case are planning to request another hearing with different justices.
Thankfully, a result this patently unfair is unlikely to occur again, since legislation was recently approved, which would require nursing homes to carry liability insurance that would provide up to $1 million per individual injured or killed due to negligence. However, the new bill sets a cap of $3 million per coverage period. Thus, the maximum recoverable results regardless of the number of harmed individuals would still have a $3 million ceiling.
If your loved one in the Maryland or the Washington D.C. areas has suffered injury or death as a result of nursing home abuse or neglect, contact the knowledgeable nursing home negligence and abuse attorneys at Lebowitz & Mzhen right away. Our firm has many years of experience representing people from across Maryland in securing compensation for injuries, and in some cases wrongful death, caused as a result of nursing home neglect or abuse. Our full service personal injury law firm can advise you regarding the potential outcome of your case, and what your rights are under the law. Contact our office today in order to set up your free and confidential initial consultation. You can reach us by calling (800) 654-1949 or through our website.
More Blog Posts:
Nursing Home Abuse More Widespread Than You Might Think, Maryland Nursing Home Lawyer Blog, published June 7, 2013
South Carolina Considers Nursing Home Hidden Camera Bill, Maryland Nursing Home Lawyer Blog, published May 28, 2013