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Archive for Friday, April 1, 2005

Lawsuit reform bill draws pleas for veto

April 1, 2005

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— Advocates for the elderly and disabled on Thursday called on Gov. Kathleen Sebelius to veto legislation they said would protect nursing homes that have mistreated residents.

The bill approved by the Legislature "makes it harder for Kansas citizens residing in nursing homes to seek redress when they have been injured, neglected or abused," said Shannon Jones, director of the Statewide Independent Living Council of Kansas.

But Linda Berndt, executive president of the Kansas Health Care Assn., which represents 200 facilities, said the bill would improve care for clients by reducing legal expenses.

Nicole Corcoran, a spokeswoman for Sebelius, said the governor would carefully review the bill once it arrived on her desk.

The dispute is over how the bill could limit evidence in lawsuits against long-term care facilities.

Only inspection reports related to the claim of wrongdoing could be admitted into evidence, according to the bill.

Advocates for the elderly and disabled said the limit would prevent the admission of inspections that could show a pattern of inadequate treatment.

Ernest Kutzley, AARP Kansas' associate state director for advocacy, said the measure "restricts the rights of residents and hides patterns of abuse and neglect."

But, Berndt said, "We're not trying to hide anything. If there's a relationship in the type of claim then those survey reports would be admissible in court."

Berndt said insurance costs are skyrocketing because of legal expenses, and that is driving nursing homes out of business or forcing them to go without liability coverage.

But opponents of the bill said there was no evidence that increasing insurance costs were related to lawsuits.

Joining SILCK and AARP in asking for a veto were the Disability Rights Center, Kansas Advocates for Better Care, Kansas Area Agency on Aging Assn., and the Topeka Independent Living Resource Center.

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