Minnesota Survival Law, Limits Pain and Suffering of Deceased Victim
Families and their lawyers are calling for changes to Minnesota’s Survival Law.
In 2008, there was a case where there were physical and sexual assaults in a nursing home in Minneapolis involving over a dozen residents. This outraged people throughout the state. This led to two nurse aids being convicted of crimes and resulted in a change in state law.
The victims and their family members filed lawsuits against the aids, the nursing home, and its owner. By late 2011, all of the civil cases had been dismissed because the victims had died.
Needed Changes for Minnesota’s Survival Law
Now lawmakers may soon consider changing Minnesota’s Survival Law. Currently the law requires that a personal injury case be dropped if the victim passes away from causes not related to the incident.
The bill to eliminate the Survival Law did not get the votes in 2013 during the last day of session. The vote was tied in the Senate. The Minnesota Hospital Association and the Minnesota Insurance Federation lobbied against the law. The argument is that the law is designed to compensate injury victims and not their families. These individuals defending the current law say that the victim is to be compensated for their pain and suffering and not their heirs since the damage was not done to the families, but to the people themselves.
The Hospital Association and the Insurance Federation plan to continue opposing the bill.
In the 2008 case, the aides were accused of poking, pinching, and groping residents who were in the advanced stages of dementia. This case led to the Legislature making it a felony to abuse or severely neglect the elderly and vulnerable adults. An investigation by the Minnesota Department of Health found that two of the nurse aides were juveniles and they were responsible for the abuse. The nursing home itself was not cited.
While the home wasn’t cited, an arbitrator reviewed the case in 2011 for one of the victims and found that the home could have prevented the abuse.
Supporters of changing the law say that it currently encourages insurers and health care providers to move slowly in court.
Minnesota’s survival law originated in English common law and has been in place in Minnesota since 1849. Until the 19th century, many states had similar laws. Legislators began putting exceptions in place because the standard was considered too harsh over time. It was also found that the Survival Law was unconstitutional and this resulted in a provision that applied to the defendants in a lawsuit who are the perpetrators in the harm done. The fact that nursing homes couldn’t be held liable in the law also changed and so did the limit on the amount of money that families could seek in their wrongful death lawsuits.
An analysis of the proposed legislation by the Minnesota Management and Budget Department estimated that the new bill could result in up to two more personal injury cases annually. However, some attorneys estimate that it could be more than that.
It is expected that the legislation will be taken up in the upcoming session. If it passes, it will not be retroactive, which will leave out families dealing with loved ones who have passed after similar abuse cases.
How Can You Help? – Report Abuse and Neglect – Advocate for Survival Law Changes
For more information from the Minnesota Department of Health, Office of Health Facility Complaints concerning nursing homes, assisted living and other elder care providers view resolved complaints at the MDH website.
If you have concerns about any form of elder abuse or neglect contact Minnesota Elder Abuse Attorney Kenneth LaBore toll free at 612-743-9048 or toll free at 1-888-452-6589 or by email at KLaBore@MNnursinghomeneglect.com.