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Kentucky Supreme Court clarifies the statute of limitations and survival of actions in patient’s rights nursing home cases

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There are many questions that determine the outcome of a lawsuit. However, while inquiries such as “who, what, how, and why” are important, the first and foremost consideration is often “when” – as in, when exactly did the claim arise? This is because civil actions are subject to a statute of limitations, and lawsuits not filed within the time set by law are usually dismissed.

This is unfortunate because many otherwise valid claims may be dismissed when, if the action had been filed on time, the complaining party would likely have received a sizable settlement or judgment.

Facts and Procedural Background

In the case of Overstreet v. Kindred Nursing Centers Limited Partnership, the plaintiff was the administrator of the estate of a woman who had been a resident of a long-term care facility owned by the defendant. The woman went into the facility in 2002 and remained there until she passed away in 2008.

More than three years after the woman’s death, the administrator filed suit against the defendant in the Mercer County Circuit Court, alleging that it had violated several provisions of Kentucky Revised Statutes § 216.515, thereby causing injury and eventually death to the woman and violating the basic tenants of patient’s rights.

The Issue Before the Supreme Court

After lengthy proceedings in the trial court and the intermediate court of appeals, the case went to the Kentucky Supreme Court to address the statute of limitations applicable to actions brought under § KRS 216.515 and decide whether actions brought under the statute survive the death of the nursing home resident.

The Decision of the Supreme Court

The court held that the one-year statute of limitations found in Kentucky Revised Statutes § 413.140 is to be applied to nursing home claims brought under Kentucky Revised Statutes § 216.515(6). The court reasoned that these cases are basically “indistinguishable from a common law personal injury action.”

Actions brought under the other subsections of § 216.515 pertaining to patient rights, however, are to be governed by Kentucky Revised Statute § 413.120(2), which allows five years for filing suit, since liability in such cases exists exclusively through § 216.515.

With regard to the survival of actions, the court found that actions for personal injury or property damage against a nursing home brought under Kentucky Revised Statutes § 411.140 may be brought by a resident’s personal representative after the resident has died. However, it decided that actions brought under § 216.515 must be brought by the “resident or his guardian” during his or her lifetime under § 216.515(26).

The court thus affirmed the court of appeals’ decision to dismiss the administrator’s claims. Although the supreme court’s reasoning was different, the outcome was the same.

For Advice on Your Nursing Home Case

If you or a family member has been abused, neglected, or mistreated while a resident at a Kentucky nursing home or assisted living center, the nursing home negligence attorneys at English, Lucas, Priest & Owsley can help. To schedule a free appointment to discuss your case, contact English, Lucas, Priest and Owsley at (270) 781-6500 for a free consultation. Our offices are located in downtown Bowling Green, and we represent clients throughout the state of Kentucky.

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