Wednesday, November 28, 2012

Pennsylvania Supreme Court Allows for Direct Corporate Liability in Nursing Home Case

The Pennsylvania Supreme Court recently handed down a decision on November 21, 2012 in the the nursing home case of Scampone v. Highland Park Care Center, No. 16 WAP 2011 (Pa. 2012)(Opinion by Castille, C.J.) in which the court held that both nursing home facilities and their parent corporations were subject to potential direct liability in negligence claims.

The issue before the Supreme Court was whether the corporate negligence theory applied to a skilled nursing facility and the healthcare company responsible for its operations.

By way of background, at trial, the lower court refused to allow the corporate parent to be held liable, but allowed the case against the facility itself to go forward.

The Superior Court reversed the finding as to no liability for the parent corporation, sent the case back to trial, and noted that the trial court may consider not only compensatory but also punitive damages. The appeal then went up to the Pennsylvania Supreme Court.

Upon review of the case, the Supreme Court held in Scampone that a nursing home and affiliated entities are indeed subject to potential direct liability for negligence where the requisite resident-entity relationship exists to establish that the entity owes the resident a duty of care. Accordingly, the Court affirmed the Superior Court in part, but for reasons that differed from the Superior Court, and remanded the case back to that court for further proceedings.

Therefore, under this decision, not only the nursing home facilities, but also their parent corporations, may be held directly liable for inadequate care and for deliberate misdeeds at the facilities.

This Opinion contains a detailed analysis of the difference between direct corporate liability and vicarious liability which obviously could serve to apply in other negligence cases involving corporations, such as medical malpractice, premises liability, or trucking cases, for example.

The Scampone decision can be viewed online HERE.

I send thanks to Attorney Paul Oven of the Moosic, PA law office of Dougherty, Leventhal & Price for bringing this case to my attention.

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