Trial lawyers are always looking for targets. Whether it is ADA, wage and hour, Proposition 65 or class actions, they always seem to find an avenue for profit. One of those avenues has been nursing homes. The care of seniors is a critical function in our society and in these economic times it is becoming an even bigger issue. People are living longer and healthcare costs are constantly a challenge to American families.

A recent study found that high quality nursing homes get sued almost as often as low quality nursing homes, illustrating that litigation, or the threat of litigation, does not actually lead to improvements in patient care. Personal injury lawyers are constantly arguing that these lawsuits are necessary in order to deter bad patient care and promote better care. Well, this study suggests that this is not the case. The only thing these lawsuits are doing is adding to the cost of housing and caring for the elderly.

A recent class action in California saw a $671 million jury verdict against a nursing home (not including punitive damages) – even though the nursing home had never received a single complaint against it. Proof of harm was not necessary for the lawsuit. Thankfully, the verdict was later reduced to $62.8 million, but if the original verdict had stuck this company would have been forced to file for bankruptcy.

A recent article in Forbes went into further detail about the study. It turns out the study examined 4,716 claims against 1,465 nursing homes that resulted in payments of $578 million (in 2006 dollars), or an average of nearly $200,000 per claim. If typical fees were charged, the lawyers would have walked away with nearly $175 million in fees.

And what do you and I get stuck with? Even higher prices for senior care without necessarily seeing any improvement in this care. The bottom line is that litigation does not improve nursing home safety. Let’s deal with the concerns about safety and put a hold on suing. No one benefits from it other than the personal injury lawyers. Cross posted at