Nursing Home Patients Would Be at Greater Risk Under NC Senate Bill

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Victims’ Relatives Join NC Advocates for Justice in Asking Sens. Apodaca, Brown and Rucho to Reject Insurance Industry-Backed

“The victims’ families are asking lawmakers to put patients, not insurance companies, first,” said Dick Taylor of the NC Advocates for Justice.

Relatives of two patients who died as a result of nursing home negligence are asking lawmakers to walk away from a bill that makes such facilities even less safe.

Martha Walden’s mother died of hypothermia – in a nursing home. In another nursing home, Jo Ann Pfirman’s husband died of strangulation.

A state investigation of Ms. Walden’s mother death found the nursing home had “violated simple safety measures.” Such safety measures would erode if the NC General Assembly embraces a radical new bill supported by the insurance industry, said Dick Taylor of the NC Advocates for Justice.

Now, Walden and Pfirman are joining the NCAJ in asking Senators Tom Apodaca, Harry Brown and Bob Rucho to abandon their sponsorship of Senate Bill 33. “The victims’ families are asking lawmakers to put patients, not insurance companies, first,” said Taylor.

Ms. Walden wrote State Senator, Pete Brunstetter, who chairs the committee considering a bill to put a cap on “non-economic damages” in medical malpractice cases: “When my mother froze to death, she had no “economic” damages. Her damages for pain, suffering, terror and death are all “non-economic.” I do not know the fair amount of those damages. My plan is to ask a jury that question. I trust that a jury of twelve people will make a fair decision after it has heard all of the facts. I cannot see how legislators sitting in Raleigh, having heard no facts, can make that decision.”

Martha Walden’s letter to Senator Brunstetter and Jo Ann Pfirman’s letter to Senator David Rouzer explain more eloquently than any statistic why legislators forcing a $250,000 ‘cap’ on juries – when they decide cases like this – is unfair.

“If Senate Bill 33 passes, legislators will have voted to let corporate nursing home owners avoid responsibility when their negligent care harms patients like Ms. Walden’s mother and Ms Pfirman’s husband,” said Taylor. “As a result, vulnerable nursing home residents will be at greater risk of harm.”

SB 33 receives its first public hearing at a meeting of the Senate J-1 Committee, led by Sen. Pete Brunstetter, on Thursday, February 17 at 10:00 a.m. Advocates plan to speak there on behalf of concerned patients across North Carolina.

Read the letters from Martha Walden and Jo Ann Pfirman, and find out more about SB-33 at http://www.ncaj.com. For more information, please contact todd(at)ncaj(dot)com.

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Todd Barlow
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