Daily Independent (Ashland, KY)

Local News

February 13, 2013

Bill to prevent ‘frivolous’ lawsuits against nursing homes moves to House

FRANKFORT — Sometimes, the more things change, the more they stay the same.

The Kentucky state Senate Wednesday passed a controversial bill to require claims of abuse or neglect to go first to a medical review panel before filing suit – but only after a contentious debate and a straight party-line vote.

The bill will prevent “frivolous” lawsuits, according to its sponsor, Sen. Julie Denton, R-Louisville, and is supported by the nursing home industry.

Earlier this week, the Senate Health and Welfare Committee, chaired by Denton, passed the bill to the Senate floor without hearing from those who had requested to testify against it.

That prompted Senate leadership to send the bill back to committee for another hearing, and prompted Sen. Ray Jones, D-Pikeville, a trial attorney, to criticize in a floor speech the way the bill was handled by Denton.

On Wednesday Denton called the bill again to allow those opposing the bill to testify. But Denton then immediately left the committee hearing.

Denton said she had to leave because another bill she is sponsoring was before another committee. She said it had nothing to do with the schedule of those testifying against the bill.

Wanda Delaplain, an attorney who formerly worked in the office of the Kentucky Attorney General, told of her father’s death in a Frankfort nursing home, a death she said could easily have been prevented had he received prompt attention. But his calls for help, she said, were ignored for several hours.

Trying to determine what happened to her father, Delaplain went to court, but “it took four years of discovery” to get the correct records and learn what happened. Eventually, after a four-week trial, she won her case.

“It was clear there was every attempt to cover-up what happened,” Delaplain said. “His death was completely preventable.”

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