The nursing home industry in Illinois (and really nationwide) has been hard-hit by the coronavirus/Covid-19 pandemic. Here are the things that you need to know.
The Illinois Department of Public Health has a link – click here – which provides a searchable database of which nursing homes have had confirmed cases of coronavirus and whether there have been related deaths. This is a page which is being updated on a weekly basis, so you can check back here for additional information as it develops.
The fact that a nursing home has coronavirus cases and/or deaths is not necessarily an indicator that they are providing poor care – it has been a struggle to contain the virus everywhere, and once it is in the building, it is that much more difficult. However, under the circumstances now, I certainly would not choose to admit a loved one to a nursing home with confirmed cases, and this is the best resource for identifying which facilities have confirmed cases.
What about the legal situation?
As I am writing this, there are a lot of open questions which I have not had to consider too deeply, because our office has not as of yet accepted any cases involving coronavirus and am uncertain that we will.
Cases involving the coronavirus will likely be inherently difficult. To win a nursing home abuse and neglect case, you need to prove that the nursing home provided substandard care. Proof that this was the case is going to be hard to come by, as much of what could stand as proof will not be in the resident chart, which is a primary source of proof in all nursing home cases. Further, because of the no-visitors rules in place at nursing homes around the state, testimony from family members will be missing as well. Further you need to show that the substandard care caused the negative outcome which is something that will be difficult to show as well.
Complicating all of this is the Executive Order issued by Gov. Pritzker declaring Covid-19 a state health emergency. One of the provisions in the executive order provides that persons and entities providing care in response to the outbreak will be immune from liability unless the negligence is either gross negligence or willful misconduct. This is a greatly heightened standard of proof.
Obviously, this order is intended to allow health care providers to offer care without having the same concerns about legal liability they ordinarily would have. I have no idea right now whether that governor-created immunity from negligence in the provision of care would withstand constitutional challenge under the Illinois State Constitution, when and if it is challenged. For now, that certainly stands as extra hurdle that nursing home residents and their families might face should something happen which might otherwise warrant legal action.
As for other types of cases such as bed sores, nursing home falls, choking accidents, and other forms of nursing home abuse and neglect: our office is still accepting appropriate cases for representation. However, you can be sure that nursing homes will try to use the Executive Order as a defense against even these ordinary, non-coronavirus type of cases, and one of the issues which will have to be resolved at the outset is whether the Executive Order applies to the regular care that is supposed to be provided in nursing homes, in additional the issue of whether it is constitutional or not.
You can also be sure that many of these cases will be defended much more aggressively with nursing homes explaining poor care as being a product of the crisis and the additional strains that the crisis brought on.
For all of these reasons, it is ever more crucial that in the event that you or your family are considering legal action against a nursing home during this time that you get the help of an experienced Chicago nursing home lawyer to assist you. Contact our office for a free, no-obligation consultation.