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nursing homes

Caleb Brown interviews me for a Cato podcast on the Administration’s new home-companion overtime rules, which could drive many elderly and disabled persons into nursing homes. Earlier here and here.

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Had you heard that disabled-rights activists have staged demonstrations in Washington, D.C. to protest a new Obama administration initiative? Not only that, but the disabled-rights activists are right.

At issue is an awful scheme by the Obama Labor Department, newly headed by Secretary Thomas Perez, to abolish most of the “companionship exemption” to federal wage and hour laws, which has up to now reasonably recognized that serving as a live-in or semi-live-in paid attendant to a sick, elderly or disabled person is not really the same sort of thing as working twelve-hour days on a factory assembly line. I’ve got a new post at Cato at Liberty looking at some of the consequences we can expect from making it far more expensive to provide a kind of round-the-clock care that often keeps people out of nursing homes. More: Bloomberg.

Some background on the controversy, beyond the links in the Cato post: National Council on Disability (a federal disability-advocacy agency that was not entirely prepared to toe the line in favor of the new regs); Stephen Miller, Society for Human Resource Management; Kaiser Health News; Disability Law (“disability rights groups… fear that substantially raising the cost of personal assistance services without increasing Medicaid reimbursements will force people with disabilities into nursing homes”); PHI and Direct Care Alliance (promoting regs); National Association for Home Care and Hospice and more (commercial group opposed); ADAPT (disability rights group opposed).

More reactions: Bill McMorris/Free Beacon, Jon Hyman, Trey Kovacs/Workplace Choice.

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After all, what if something should go wrong? Following a resident’s death, a California senior facility defends its “protocol” of ordering nurses to stand by for rescue personnel rather than perform CPR themselves [L.A. Times]

More: Plenty of pushback from readers, including warnings that CPR is not necessarily an appropriate or desired intervention in the resident’s situation, even in an independent-living arrangement in the absence of a DNR (do not resuscitate) order. The resident’s family has expressed satisfaction with the senior facility’s actions and says it has no plans to sue. More: ABA Journal, White Coat.

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Labor and employment roundup

by Walter Olson on December 21, 2012

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The uproar continues, and quite properly so (earlier here and here), over the threats of Boston Mayor Thomas Menino and Chicago alderman Proco (“Joe”) Moreno to exclude the Chick-Fil-A fast-food chain because they disagree (as do I) with some of the views of its owner. Among the latest commentary, the impeccably liberal Boston Globe has sided with the company in an editorial (“which part of the First Amendment does Menino not understand?…A city in which business owners must pass a political litmus test is the antithesis of what the Freedom Trail represents”), as has my libertarian colleague Tom Palmer at Cato (“Mayor Menino is no friend of human rights.”)

The spectacle of a national business being threatened with denial of local licenses because of its views on a national controversy is bad enough. But “don’t offend well-organized groups” is only Rule #2 for a business that regularly needs licenses, approvals and permissions. Rule #1 is “don’t criticize the officials in charge of granting the permissions.” Can you imagine if Mr. Dan Cathy had been quoted in an interview as saying “Boston has a mediocre if not incompetent Mayor, and the Chicago Board of Aldermen is an ethics scandal in continuous session.” How long do you think it would take for his construction permits to get approved then?

Thus it is that relatively few businesses are willing to criticize the agencies that regulate them in any outspoken way (see, e.g.: FDA and pharmaceutical industry, the), or to side with pro-business groups that seriously antagonize many wielders of political power (see, e.g., the recent exodus of corporate members from the American Legislative Exchange Council).

A few weeks ago I noted the case of Maryland’s South Mountain Creamery, which contends through an attorney (though the U.S. Attorney for Maryland denies it) that it was offered less favorable terms in a plea deal because it had talked to the press in statements that wound up garnering bad publicity for the prosecutors. After that item, reader Robert V. wrote in as follows:

Your recent article about the [U.S. Attorney for Maryland] going after the dairy farmers reminded me a case in New York state where the Health Department closed down a nursing home in Rochester. They claim is was because of poor care, the owner claims it was because he spoke out against the DOH.

The state just lost a lawsuit where the jury found the DOH targeted the nursing home operator because he spoke out against them.

According to Democrat and Chronicle reporters Gary Craig and Steve Orr, the jury found state health officials had engaged in a “vendetta” against the nursing home owner:

Beechwood attorneys maintained that an email and document trail showed that Department of Health officials singled out Chambery for retribution because he had sparred with them in the past over regulatory issues. The lawsuit hinged on a Constitutional argument — namely that the state violated Chambery’s First Amendment rights by targeting him for his challenges to their operation.

The Second Circuit panel opinion in 2006 permitting Chambery/ Beechwood’s retaliation claim to go forward is here. It took an extremely long time for the nursing home operators to get their case to a jury; the state closed them down in 1999 and the facility was sold at public auction in 2002.

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May 31 roundup

by Walter Olson on May 31, 2011

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April 4 roundup

by Walter Olson on April 4, 2011

  • Verbal fireworks from Judge Kozinski in Ninth Circuit “stolen valor” case [Above the Law]
  • Measure of artificially contrived scarcity: “NYC Taxi Medallions Approach $1 Million.” Would officials in Washington, D.C. really consider introducing such a destructive system? [Perry, more]
  • Workers’ comp OK’d in case where simulated chicken head blamed for subsequent emotional disability [Lowering the Bar]
  • “NBA referee sues sports writer over tweet” [Siouxsie Law] “Lessons from Dan Snyder’s Libel Suit” [Paul Alan Levy/CL&P, earlier]
  • Litigation rates similar for poor and good nursing homes, researchers find [US News] Effects of medical liability reform in Texas [White Coat, scroll] New York’s Cuomo caves on medical liability plan [Heritage] Sued if you do, sued if you don’t in the emergency room [same]
  • “Federal Government Wants to Bully School Bullies, and Demands School Help” [Doherty, Bader, Popehat, Bernstein] New York law firm launches school-bullying practice [Constitutional Daily]
  • Mass tort settlements: “The market for specious claims” [S. Todd Brown, Buffalo, SSRN]
  • Could Gene McCarthy’s candidacy have survived Arizona elections law? [Trevor Burrus, HuffPo]

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September 13 roundup

by Walter Olson on September 13, 2010

  • “Court Vacates $99,000 Fee to Counsel for Plaintiff Who Won $650″ [NJLJ]
  • Libel-suit target: “Author Simon Singh Puts Up a Fight in the War on Science” [Wired]
  • No, they weren’t “worst”: RIP injury lawyer who hyped “10 Worst Toys” list each Christmas [WSJ Law Blog]
  • New credit card regulations squeeze small business [John Berlau letter in Washington Post]
  • District attorney’s case intake desk should screen out many unjust prosecutions, but often doesn’t [Greenfield]
  • AGs’ campaign to drive sex pros off Craigslist has failure built in [William Saletan, Slate; LNL; Declan McCullagh]
  • “Nursing Home Company Settles $677 Million Lawsuit for $50 Million” [AP]
  • “Judge accused of sexual harassment once helped women sue” [Orlando Sentinel]

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September 7 roundup

by Walter Olson on September 7, 2010

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August 21 roundup

by Walter Olson on August 21, 2010

  • More criticism of $671 million California nursing home verdict [Tracy Leach/Examiner, California Civil Justice, earlier]
  • Community service as precondition for college tax credits? [Charlotte Allen/Minding the Campus, earlier]
  • Casket-making monks vs. Louisiana funeral regulators [Ken at Popehat]
  • Careful about repeating claims that bad stuff in the environment is causing children to go through puberty earlier [Sanghavi, Slate]
  • Grilled chicken: “California Restaurants Lose Appeal On Cancer Warnings” [Dan Fisher/Forbes, earlier]
  • Randy Maniloff on the uncertain foundations of insurance bad faith law [Mealey's, PDF]
  • “Why Imitation Is the Sincerest Form of Fashion” [Raustiala/Sprigman, NY Times, earlier on design "knockoff" legislation here, here, and here]
  • On a personal note, this week I completed my relocation from the New York to the Washington, D.C. vicinity. I look forward to seeing more of my friends both at the Cato Institute’s offices and elsewhere around D.C.

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August 2 roundup

by Walter Olson on August 2, 2010

  • “Why Do Employers Use FICO Scores?” Maybe one reason is that government places off limits so many of the other ways they might evaluate job applicants [McArdle, Coyote]
  • Michael Fumento on $671 million verdict against nursing home in California [Forbes]
  • Ted Frank is looking for a pro bono economics expert [CCAF]
  • Lester Brickman, “Anatomy of an Aggregate Settlement: The Triumph of Temptation Over Ethics” [Phillips Petroleum explosion; SSRN via Legal Ethics Forum]
  • Ice cream trucks return to Niskayuna, N.Y. 34 years after a panic-occasioned ban [Free-Range Kids, Mangu-Ward]
  • Galloping trend toward “whistleblower” enactments: this time lawmakers are rushing one on oil workers [Smith/ShopFloor, more, earlier]
  • Class action lawsuit filed against Trident Xtra Care gum, marketed as good for one’s teeth [Hoffman/ConcurOp; compare Russell Jackson on Wrigley's settlement of a class action over Eclipse chewing gum]
  • EEOC officials urge employers to ban foul language and swearing in workplace [seven years ago at Overlawyered]

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A number of states have what are sometimes known as filial responsibility laws which obligate adult children to pay for their parents’ medical and nursing-home care. In Pennsylvania, nursing home lawyers have been known to pursue lawsuits against out-of-state children who are estranged from the parents in question. (Monica Yant Kinney, “If mom can’t pay, adult child must”, Philadelphia Inquirer, Jul. 12).

More on these laws: Jane Gross, NYT; Everyday Simplicity; Do Ask Do Tell.

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The Center for Public Representation, a Massachusetts “public interest law” group that specializes in disability-related lawsuits, filed a civil-rights class action in the name of 640 profoundly mentally disabled residents of nursing facilities demanding that the state Department of Mental Retardation move them into group homes, the better to be part of the “community”, as the catch-phrase has it. A judge agreed and ordered the transfer. Among the 640 patients was Eric Voss, who is severely disabled and has been living for seven years at a Groton pediatric nursing facility called Seven Hills. Now Eric’s parents, Frank and Barbara Voss, are fighting the order, saying that their son never had any choice about joining the action and that forcing him out would endanger the quality of his care and deprive him of surroundings and staff that have become like home. “U.S. Rep. Barney Frank, a Massachusetts Democrat, has filed legislation that requires parents and guardians to be notified about class-action suits, and to allow them to opt out.”

“Our children can’t speak for themselves, so we will fight for them,” Voss said. “If individuals like Eric are moved, they won’t live long. They shouldn’t have to give their lives for a lawsuit that has nothing to do with them.”

(Rita Savard, “‘We’re prepared to fight'”, Lowell Sun, Oct. 12; alternate version; Rolland v. Patrick settlement agreement, PDF; AvertRollandTragedy.org, advocacy site).

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Thanks to a new city ordinance, they get to provide some of the world’s most expensive free hotel service to patients who are well enough to leave but refuse. (WSJ health blog, Aug. 4).

More: Numerous interesting comments from readers including this from Throckmorton:

This is not just in L.A. but happens all around the country as well. Our area saw this increase with the rise in nursing home suits. Nursing homes are now very reluctant to accept patients who are at risk for decubitus ulcers, etc. This combined with the declining revenue has led to the situation where there are no places that will accept transfers from the hospital. As more and more patients fill the wards awaiting placement, the hospital has no choice but to divert those that need urgent care.

You may not be able to get a nursing home patient out of the hospital, but at least you will not have a problem finding them an attorney.

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Tampa-based Wilkes & McHugh, which has enjoyed much success filing suits against nursing homes in many states, “is now on the defense end of a suit that contends the firm knowingly violated Tennessee law regarding contingency fees.” Former client Debbie Howard, who hired the firm to sue a Memphis nursing home, says it “engaged in an unlawful scheme to collect 40 percent or 45 percent in contingency fees of settlement amounts, although Tennessee law caps fees to 33 and 1/3 percent in medical malpractice cases. The complaint says the law firm charged the higher and unlawful contingency fee to hundreds of clients in Tennessee.” In its response, the law firm says the complaint is “scurrilous” and based on falsehoods, and says Howard never appealed a Tennessee court order approving the fees. (Liz Freeman, “Tampa law firm faces contingency fees lawsuit”, Naples (Fla.) News, Jan. 14; Scott Barancik, “Firm gets a taste of dish it serves”, St. Petersburg Times, Feb. 17). For more on the law firm, see Mar. 13-14, 2001, Jul. 6, 2005, and Jun. 22, 2006, as well as Scott Barancik, “Law firm’s success against nursing homes has a price”, St. Petersburg Times, Jul. 24, 2004.