Invokana is part of a new class of type 2 diabetes drugs known as sodium-glucose-cotransporter-2 (SGLT2) inhibitors.   SGLT2 inhibitors are designed to control diabetes by blocking reabsorption of glucose by the kidneys, impacting normal kidney function and allowing more sugar to be passed from the body through urine.   However, the FDA has recently issued a new warning for a number of SGLT2 inhibitors, including Invokana (canagliflozin). The agency has stated that these diabetes therapies can cause high levels of acid to build up in the blood, causing diabetic ketoacidosis, which can lead to diabetic coma or death.

In the FDA’s announcement, the agency warned patients using SGLT2 inhibitors that they should seek immediate medical attention if they experience any symptoms of ketoacidosis, including:

  • Unusual fatigue or sleepiness
  • Nausea
  • Vomiting
  • Confusion
  • Difficulty breathing
  • Abdominal pain

The Suthers Law Firm is currently investigating claims on behalf of individuals who used Invokana or other SGLT2 inhibitors and suffered serious medical complications. Other SGLT2 inhibitors that have been associated with health complications include Glyxambi (empagliflozin/linagliptin), Farxiga (dapagliflozin), Xigduo XR (dapagliflozin/metformin), and Jardiance (empagliflozin).

If you or a loved one has experienced serious medical problems after using one of the products listed above, contact the experienced attorneys at the Suthers Law Firm. The firm has represented many victims injured by dangerous drugs and defective medical products. Such lawsuits are pursued under a contingency fee basis, meaning that there are no attorney fees unless a recovery is obtained. To discuss a potential lawsuit for yourself, a family member or friend, call 1-800-320-2384 or go to www.sutherslaw.com for a FREE consultation.

The Suthers Law Firm is continuing to investigate potential claims on behalf of individuals who purchased laminate wood flooring from Lumber Liquidators.  Problems with the Lumber Liquidators’ flooring was first noted on CBS’ 60 Minutes.  Reporters went undercover to factories in China that produce laminate flooring for Lumber Liquidators that the company says is “CARB 2″ compliant, meaning it complies with California standards (and soon to be federal standards).  However, managers in these Chinese facilities acknowledged that inventory being produced for Lumber Liquidators was being labeled “CARB 2″ compliant, even though everyone in the facility was aware of the fact it was not.  Independent tests performed by CBS News indicated the flooring failed to meet health and safety standards due to the high levels of formaldehyde.  Formaldehyde is a colorless and flammable chemical, and is a common ingredient in the glue used in laminate flooring.  During and after installation, it is released as a gas that causes burning eyes, nose and throat irritation, coughing, headaches, dizziness, joint pain and nausea.  At long-term exposure, formaldehyde is listed as a known cause of cancer in humans by both the federal government and the State of California.

The following models of Lumber Liquidators lumber may contain excessive and illegal amounts of formaldehyde:

  • 8 mm Bristol County Cherry Laminate Flooring
  • 8 mm Dream Home Nirvana French Oak Laminate Flooring
  • 12 mm Dream Home Kensington Manor Antique Bamboo Laminate Flooring
  • 12 mm Dream Home St. James Oceanside Plank Bamboo Laminate Flooring
  • 12 mm Dream Home Kensington Manor Warm Springs Chestnut Laminate Flooring
  • 15 mm Dream Home St. James Sky Lakes Pine Laminate Flooring
  • 12 mm Dream Home Ispiri Chimney Tops Smoked Oak Laminate Flooring
  • 12 mm Dream Home Kensington Manor Imperial Teak Laminate Flooring
  • 12 mm Dream Home St. James Vintner’s Reserve Laminate Flooring
  • 12 mm Dream Home Kensington Manor Cape Doctor Laminate Flooring
  • 12 mm Dream Home St. James Cumberland Mountain Oak Laminate Flooring
  • 12 mm Dream Home Ispiri Americas Mission Olive Laminate Flooring
  • 12 mm Dream Home Kensington Manor Glacier Peak Poplar Laminate Flooring
  • 12 mm Dream Home Kensington Manor Golden Teak Laminate Flooring
  • 12 mm Dream Home Kensington Manor Handscraped Imperial Teak Laminate Flooring (SKU 10029601)
  • 12 mm Dream Home Kensington Manor Handscraped Summer Retreat Teak Laminate Flooring
  • 12 mm Dream Home Kensington Manor Sandy Hills Hickory Laminate Flooring
  • 12 mm Dream Home Kensington Manor Tanzanian Wenge Laminate Flooring
  • 8 mm Dream Home Nirvana Royal Mahogany Laminate Flooring
  • 12 mm Dream Home St. James Blacksburg Barn Board Laminate Flooring
  • 12 mm Dream Home St. James Brazilian Koa Laminate Flooring
  • 12 mm Dream Home St. James Golden Acacia Laminate Flooring
  • 12 mm Dream Home Ispiri Poplar Forest Oak Laminate Flooring
  • 12 mm Dream Home Kensington Manor Fumed African Ironwood Laminate Flooring
  • 12 mm Dream Home St. James African Mahogany Laminate Flooring
  • 12 mm Dream Home St. James Chimney Rock Charcoal Laminate Flooring
  • 12 mm Dream Home St. James Nantucket Beech Laminate Flooring

Other types of Chinese-made laminate sold at Lumber Liquidators may also be affected.

If you have purchased a laminate wood flooring product listed above, or any other laminate flooring from Lumber Liquidators, and are concerned about formaldehyde levels in your home, you may be eligible to participate in a lawsuit. Contact the experienced attorneys at Suthers Law Firm online or call us on our toll free number, 1-800-320-2384, to set up a FREE consultation.

Xarelto bottle

Xarelto (rivaroxaban) is a prescription blood thinner that was developed by pharmaceutical giant Bayer, and marketed by Janssen Pharmaceuticals, a division of another pharmaceutical giant, Johnson & Johnson.  Xarelto is typically prescribed to reduce the risks of suffering a stroke or blood clot in patients who have a heart rhythm disorder known as atrial fibrillation or A-fib.  For example, Xarelto is commonly given to patients with atrial fibrillation who have undergone hip replacement or knee replacement surgery to prevent blood clots from forming after the surgery.  The drug’s manufacturer is attempting to expand the use of Xarelto for patients with another heart condition known as acute coronary syndrome.

There have been multiple reports of Xarelto causing excessive bleeding in patients.  This can result in severe and permanent injuries, or death, if the bleeding is uncontrolled.  As a result, multiple lawsuits have been filed across the U.S. against the manufacturer of Xarelto and the marketer of the drug, alleging these companies failed to warn both patients and physicians of the increased risks of fatal internal bleeding when using Xarelto.  Because of the number of lawsuits filed in federal courts across the U.S., in December 2014, the United States Judicial Panel on Multidistrict Litigation (MDL) created a Xarelto MDL and consolidated all of the cases in the U.S. District Court for the Eastern District of Louisiana.  The Xarelto litigation is in the beginning stages.

Interestingly, litigation against the manufacturer of a similar drug, Pradaxa, was settled in May 2014 for $650 million.  The Institute for Safe Medication Practices issued a report in 2013, stating that more patients had suffered serious, disabling or fatal injuries from taking Xarelto than those who took Pradaxa.  It should come as no surprise that Bayer and Janssen Pharmaceuticals are fighting the litigation, since annual sales of Xarelto in the U.S. were expected to exceed $1 billion for 2014.  The companies believe that the drugs sales could eventually reach $3.5 billion a year.

Suthers Law Firm is investigating claims involving individuals who took Xarelto and suffered from one or more of the following, serious conditions: pulmonary embolism (PE), severe, uncontrolled bleeding that required hospitalization, stroke or death.  Individuals who have suffered after taking Xarelto should not wait to hire an attorney.  Every state has what are known as statutes of limitations, which are laws that specify the time within which an injury claim must be filed, or it will be barred by law.  If you or a loved one has suffered one of the serious injuries listed above after taking Xarelto, you should not delay in consulting with an attorney who is experienced in handling defective medical product cases.

The tragic deaths of five young women on Interstate 16 recently is a stark reminder of the dangers that tractor-trailers pose to all drivers on Georgia highways.  Five Georgia Southern University nursing students, riding in two cars, died when a tractor-trailer failed to stop for traffic slowed by a prior accident on I-16 in Bryan County during the early morning hours of April 22, 2015.  Two other students were injured.  The GSU students were on their way to their last day of clinical rotations at a Savannah hospital. Sadly, this tragedy might have been avoided with the use of “crash avoidance” technology on tractor-trailers.  Forward collision avoidance and mitigation technology is already fully-developed and comes as a standard feature on many new automobiles.  This life-saving technology works by taking over the brakes and engine of the tractor-trailer when an imminent collision is anticipated and alerting the driver to the danger.  Many systems brake the vehicle autonomously if the driver does not respond.  An auto brake system may not always be able to prevent a crash, but it can reduce the vehicle speed, mitigating the severity of the crash and injuries caused thereby.

Not only is forward crash avoidance technology available, studies have shown that it can prevent collisions and fatalities.  The National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) is the U.S. government agency whose mission is to achieve “the highest standards of excellence in motor vehicle and highway safety.”  NHTSA is well aware of the existence and effectiveness of forward collision avoidance technology.   It estimates that current forward collision avoidance technology could prevent over 2,500 crashes each year and future generation systems could prevent over 6,300 crashes annually.  In Australia, that country’s equivalent of our Department of Transportation investigated forward collision avoidance technology.  A detailed study of Australian crashes found that the use of such technology would have resulted in a 20-40% reduction in the number and severity of fatal crashes and a 30-50% reduction of injuries.   In light of such evidence, one must question why NHTSA has failed to move forward and require that this basic crash avoidance technology be installed on all tractor-trailers.  Estimates of the cost to retrofit current tractor-trailers to meet this standard are in the range of $500 per truck.  This cost pales in comparison to the costs and consequences of lost lives and severe injuries resulting from tractor-trailer collisions.

According to the U.S. Department of Transportation, there are nearly 100,000 injuries and 4,000 deaths annually on U.S. highways as a result of tractor-trailer collisions.  In 2013, 97% of those killed in two-vehicle crashes involving a large truck and a smaller passenger vehicle were the occupants of the smaller automobile.  Georgia is currently among the top five states in the U.S. in truck-related fatalities.  Steve Owings is the President and Co-Founder of Road Safe America.  Mr. Owings lost his son, Cullum, when the car Cullum was driving was barreled into from behind, in stopped traffic, by a tractor-trailer.  Road Safe America, joined by the Georgia Trial Lawyers Association and other highway safety groups, is calling on Congress and NHTSA to require forward collision avoidance technology on all current and future tractor-trailers.  Last week’s heartbreaking wreck is another example of the tragedy that can occur when a truck driver is distracted or otherwise not alert.  It is time that the trucking industry implemented the technology that is already available to take over and avoid a collision when a fatigued and distracted truck driver does not do so manually.  Savannah native Abbie Deloach, Emily Clark, Morgan Bass, Catherine McKay Pittman, and Kaitlyn Baggett were, by all accounts, outstanding young women with promising careers and lives ahead of them.  Let’s honor their memories by demanding that Congress and NHTSA immediately require the installation and use of forward collision avoidance technology on all tractor-trailers.

Lumber Liquidators is one of largest retailers of both wood and laminate flooring in North America.  In fact, there is more than 100 million square feet of the company’s laminate flooring alone sold and installed in American homes every year.  In a startling recent report on CBS’ “60 Minutes”, the news show claims Lumber Liquidators has been selling laminate flooring that contains levels of formaldehyde in excess of regulatory standards.

The flooring at issue is Lumber Liquidators’ laminate flooring made in China.  (American-made laminates sold at Lumber Liquidators had acceptable levels of the formaldehyde.) Independent test performed by CBS News indicated the flooring failed to meet health and safety standards due to the high levels of formaldehyde.  Formaldehyde is a colorless and flammable chemical, and is a common ingredient in the glue used in laminate flooring. During and after installation, it is released as a gas that causes burning eyes, nose and throat irritation, coughing, headaches, dizziness, joint pain and nausea. At long-term exposure, formaldehyde is listed as a known cause of cancer in humans by both the federal government and the State of California.

On the program, Dr. Philip Landrigan, a physician at New York’s Mt. Sinai Hospital, said that long-term exposure to formaldehyde from the Lumber Liquidators flooring increases the risk for chronic respiratory irritation, reduced lung function and asthma. Dr. Bernard Goldstein, a physician, toxicologist and former dean of the University of Pittsburgh Graduate School of Public Health stated that this is especially true in children. “For flooring I’d be more concerned about acute health effects, particularly for infants crawling over the floor.  Children breathe in more air relative to their small body sizes than do adults. When they work hard, as they do when they crawl or run, they will have maximal respiratory uptake of anything gassing off the floor. Pets too,” he added.

“For its report “60 Minutes” reporters went undercover to factories in China that produce laminate flooring for Lumber Liquidators that the company says is “CARB 2″ compliant, meaning it complies with California standards (and soon to be federal standards). Managers in these Chinese facilities acknowledged that inventory being produced for Lumber Liquidators was being labeled “CARB 2″ compliant, even though everyone in the facility was aware of the fact it was not.

According to the non-profit organization Global Community Monitor (“GCM”), the Lumber Liquidators flooring from Chinese factories emit toxic gas in excess of 100 times the regulatory standards.  “The levels of formaldehyde our tests found in Lumber Liquidators’ laminate flooring are astounding and alarming,” said Denny Larson, executive director of GCM. “It’s unconscionable that Lumber Liquidators would sell this product to customers to install in their homes without informing families of the potential health risks involved, especially since they make a point of bragging about how environmentally safe it is.”

Some homeowners who bought the Chinese laminate from Lumber Liquidators have already taken action.  The first class action lawsuit, in the U.S. District Court, Eastern District of Virginia, alleges that “Lumber Liquidators manufactures, sells, and distributes Chinese Flooring that emits and off-gasses excessive levels of formaldehyde.” The plaintiffs charge the flooring company with violating the Lacey Act and the Racketeer Influenced and Corrupt Organizations Act as well as with unjust enrichment, breach of warranties, and violating business laws. “Unfortunately, one of the primary reasons Lumber Liquidators has grown so quickly and its profits have surged has been through the company’s misrepresentations about formaldehyde levels of its products and through its sourcing of cheap (and illegal) lumber from China,” the plaintiffs claim.

If you have experienced a problem with laminate flooring from Lumber Liquidators we would welcome a chance to speak with you. Contact the experienced attorneys at Suthers Law Firm online or call us on our toll free number, 1-800-320-2384, to set up a FREE consultation.

Almost one-third of the nursing homes in the United States will be getting lower scores on the Government’s Quality Scale as a result of tougher standards being utilized for rating purposes. The Government’s Nursing Home Compare website is a five-star quality ratings program used by more than one million consumers to assess the quality of care being provided at nursing homes across the United States. Lawyers, like John Suthers, who have been representing victims of abuse and neglect in nursing homes for years, have urged the Government to implement changes in the way nursing homes are evaluated. Some of the changes being implemented include measures of the nursing homes’ use of any psychotic drugs. Such drugs can place older adults, especially those with dementia and Alzheimer’s, at an increased risk for suffering injuries. The new evaluation measures being implemented also involve a more refined method to evaluate a nursing home for adequate staffing, which is one of the most important factors in providing good, quality care.

In excess of one million people used the Nursing Home Compare website in 2014 to check on a nursing home’s ratings. Some nursing homes who receive good scores use that information in touting their facilities. The five-star rating system is not an exact science, and there is no substitute for going to the facility, observing the conditions there, and asking the right questions of management. For more information about questions to ask, go to the Nursing Home Resource Center page at the Suthers Law Firm website, www.sutherslaw.com. The new rating system, at least, raises the bar in order for nursing homes to receive a higher rating. Those of us who have been suing nursing homes for neglecting residents have been concerned for a long time that the ratings were over-inflated, so we applaud the implementation of stronger measures.

There were several findings resulting from implementing the new rating standards. The average overall rating for all U.S. nursing homes decreased from 3.4 stars to 3.1 stars. The biggest drop in specific areas of performance came in the category for quality of care, where the average score dropped from 4.1 stars to 3.3 stars. Alarmingly, almost 20% of nursing homes received the lowest possible score on the newly implemented measure for using anti-psychotic drugs. The new rating system penalized nursing homes who used such drugs on residents unless the drugs were indicated for specific conditions, such as schizophrenia, Huntington’s disease, or Tourette’s syndrome. There are other quality measures that consumers should review, including the prevalence of pressure sore development and the number of falls resulting in injuries, as these remain the most common problems we see in nursing home residents.

If you would like to know the rating for a local nursing home, go to http://www.medicare.gov/nursinghomecompare/search.html. If you have a friend or loved one whom you believe has been abused or neglected in a nursing home, contact the attorneys at Suthers Law Firm, www.sutherslaw.com.

The Liberty Mutual Research Institute for Safety has issued its 2014 report, ranking the top causes of serious, workplace injuries. The report is based upon workers’ compensation claims data from year 2012 and data from the Bureau of Labor Statistics. Among the leading causes of workplace injuries were:

• Overexertion • Falls • Being struck by an object or equipment • Roadway incidents involving vehicles • Being caught in or compressed by equipment or objects • Repetitive motions involving small or micro tasks
When an employee suffers a workplace injury that causes him or her to miss a certain number of days of work, the employee is entitled to file a workers’ compensation claim. Virtually all states have a workers’ compensation award schedule that limits the employee’s recovery to a portion of the employee’s wages for a specific number of weeks. Additionally, the employee may be entitled to a lump sum payment to compensate the employee for any permanent impairment resulting from the injury. Because workers’ compensation benefits are limited by law, the injured employee is rarely made whole.

Employees and attorneys sometime overlook potential claims against third-parties, whose negligence played a role in the workplace injury. While an injured employee cannot sue his employer, there is generally no prohibition against suing a third-party whose negligence played a role in the employee’s workplace injury. There are a number of examples of such third-party claims. Consider the case of a construction employee who was working on the ground at the jobsite when a crane operator for another company negligently lowered a boom that struck and killed the employee who was on the ground. We were able to sue the company who employed the crane operator and recovered damages that were not limited by any workers’ compensation award schedule. Likewise, consider the case of an employee driving a company vehicle as part of his work duties who was injured in an automobile collision caused the negligence of the other driver. We were able to sue the negligent driver and recover damages that were greater than the benefits the employee would have received had he filed a workers’ compensation claim against his own employer. There are also many examples of cases involving employees who were injured due to defective equipment that was being utilized by their employers. In those cases, there may be potential product liability claims against the manufacturers of the defective equipment in which the damages awards would not be limited by any workers’ compensation award schedule.

Workplace injuries can have significant consequences on the victims. Benefits to which the victims are entitled under workers’ compensation are often inadequate and do not completely compensate the victim for his or her injuries and losses. When a person is injured on the job, it is important that the employee and attorney investigate thoroughly whether the negligence of a third-party caused or contributed to the cause of the injury. That may present the opportunity to file a lawsuit against the negligent third-party, and recover damages that are not limited by the workers’ compensation award schedule.

A series of reports were published recently, substantiating low levels of care at nursing homes across the United States. An investigation was conducted by the Center for Public Integrity in an effort to quantify the level of care at nursing homes and determine the reason for poor care. Nursing homes are required by state and federal regulations to meet certain minimum levels of staffing in order to meet the needs of their patients. The Center for Public Integrity’s investigation determined that greater than 80% of nursing homes reported staffing levels that were higher than what they really were. The investigation also found that 25% of nursing homes nationwide reported staffing levels that were at least two times as high as their actual levels.

Savannah, Georgia attorney John E. Suthers was one of the first attorneys in the United States to sue a nursing home and hold it accountable for neglecting a resident. “Many of us who represent victims of abuse and neglect by nursing homes have been saying for years that the underlying cause of almost all problems in nursing homes can be traced to staffing. It’s either a case of inadequate staffing or inadequately trained staff or both. The Center’s study just confirms what we have been preaching for years,” said Suthers.

In conducting the investigation, the Center for Public Integrity compared numbers that nursing homes had reported to the Government website known as Nursing Home Compare with the numbers submitted in Medicare cost reports, which are detailed reports that nursing homes are required by law to provide and which set out the number of hours paid to staff and the number of residents. By reporting artificially inflated numbers that are posted on the Nursing Home Compare website, the public can be misled when trying to investigate the quality of care rendered at a facility. “You have families relying on inaccurate reports who unknowingly place their loved ones in dangerous facilities,” Suthers said.

The Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act, commonly referred to as “Obamacare” is the federal statute that was signed into law by President Obama on March 23, 2010. Part of that law sought to change the way nursing homes report staffing levels. Rather than nursing homes self-reporting the numbers, the law requires them to submit actual payroll records, which would reflect the type of staff working and the hours they actually worked. The new reporting requirements were supposed to go into effect by March 2012. Regrettably, they have not yet taken effect.

In the meantime, Suthers says, “It’s just common sense that the more staffing you can have in the nursing home, the better the chances of a patient receiving good quality care.” Many nursing home residents need constant care to perform some of their most basic activities of daily living, such as dressing, eating, ambulating and toileting. Bedridden residents can require additional attention, since they need to be turned and repositioned at least every two hours to avoid developing pressure sores. “By increasing the level of staffing and the training of staff, many of the injuries and illnesses that occur in nursing homes could be avoided,” said Suthers.

Data shows that in more than one in five nursing homes in the United States, antipsychotics are administered to a significant percentage of residents, despite the fact that they do not have psychosis or related condition that warrants their use. Antipsychotic drugs, which are intended to treat severe mental illness such as schizophrenia, can leave people in a stupor. Both the FDA and the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services say it’s not appropriate in most cases for patients suffering from dementia to be prescribed antipsychotics. The FDA has given these drugs black-box warnings, the agency’s most serious medication alert, about potentially fatal side effects when antipsychotics are taken by patients with dementia, saying they can increase the risk of heart failure, infections and death.

Federal law has long prohibited the use of antipsychotics and other psychoactive drugs for the convenience of staff, a practice known as “chemical restraint.” The Nursing Home Reform Act, passed more than 27 years ago, gave residents the right to be free from “chemical restraints.” The law also says that nursing home residents should only receive antipsychotics if the drugs are medically necessary. However, in 2012, despite the law being on the book for almost three decades, the government finally started a campaign laying out new stricter guidelines and harsher penalties for the overuse of antipsychotics to urge nursing homes to cut back on their use of these drugs that are so dangerous for patients with severe illnesses. Unfortunately, according to a recent report by NPR, it appears these new regulations have had little success curtailing the practice, largely because they are rarely enforced.

The penalties for giving residents unnecessary medication can range from a “plan of correction,” to civil fines, to being kicked out of the Medicare and Medicaid programs. However, the NPR report found that when penalties are actually assessed the harshest penalties are almost never used when nursing home residents are given unnecessary drugs of any kind. As a result, antipsychotics continue to be overused in nursing homes across the country.

Not surprisingly, industry experts say there is a clear link between the rate of antipsychotic use in a nursing home and its staffing level. Homes that most often used these drugs for conditions not recommended by the FDA had fewer registered nurses, who direct care, and nurses’ aides, who provide most of the hands-on care. According to the recent report, the government rarely punishes these nursing homes that choose not to follow the guidelines, and when they do enforce the rules it is normally a nominal monetary penalty to the offending nursing home. This fact makes for an easy business decision for many nursing home administrators and owners – it is far cheaper to simply pay the fine and provide less resident care. Thus, the only ones actually being penalized under the “stricter” regulations are nursing home residents.

There is no question that the use of antipsychotic medications to control nursing home residents is extremely dangerous. The FDA estimates roughly 15,000 nursing home residents die every year from complications related to antipsychotics. Consequently, if you believe a family member or a loved one in a nursing home is being given unnecessary antipsychotic medications, you should immediately ask for a list of all medications that are being administered to the resident and the doses given daily. If you have a complaint about how a family member has been treated in a nursing home, you should report it to the appropriate state agency. For more information on nursing home abuse and neglect, please visit our “Nursing Home Resource Center” at the website of the Suthers Law Firm, www.sutherslaw.com.

Today, many families entrusting a skilled nursing facility with the care of a loved one may be shocked to find out the low number of registered nurses and other medical professionals that are actually providing care inside nursing homes at any given time. The controlling federal law intended at one time to improve the country’s nursing homes, the Nursing Home Reform Act of 1987, actually requires only one registered nurse on-site eight hours a day, regardless of the size of the facility.

Additionally, often times, advocates and experts believe that the data is skewed by nursing homes to make it look as if there are a greater number of medical staff available at all times in their home due to government data relying on self-reporting by the owners of the nursing homes. Data on the publicly available Nursing Home Compare website, which is promoted and operated by the government for comparison shopping, reflects staffing levels self-reported by nursing homes during a two-week period before annual federal inspections. Advocates say many homes work hard to prepare for those visits, and, as a result, critics say, those staffing levels may be artificially inflated. The Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services (CMS), the federal agency responsible for overseeing nursing homes, has since 2001 discussed the problem of the inaccuracy of self-reported data. Unfortunately, these self-reported staffing levels are a crucial metric in the federal government’s broader quality rating of nursing homes on their Nursing home Compare website, which is heavily relied on by the public.

The discrepancies between the inflated numbers and the actual numbers can lead family members to believe their loved ones are receiving one level of care, when they may be receiving much less. This is troublesome as close to 100 peer-reviewed, academic studies have shown that the amount of care, particularly that provided by registered nurses, is most strongly connected with residents’ quality of care. Lower levels of care are associated with a higher likelihood of injury, abuse, neglect and even death.

Recently representatives in Congress have taken steps to alleviate some of these problems, including, Jane Schakowsky of Illinois, who introduced a bill in the House to combat the problem. The Bill would require that a direct-care registered nurse (not an administrator) be present 24 hours a day, seven days a week, in all the nearly 16,000 nursing home that receive Medicare or Medicaid reimbursement. Additionally, there is another bill being proposed by Congress that would reform the self-reporting requirements. However, it is unclear at this point if these measures will do anything to alleviate this very serious problem facing some of the country’s most vulnerable citizens.

The Suthers Law Firm, which practices throughout the States of Georgia and South Carolina, regularly represents victims who have been abused or neglected and their families in cases against nursing homes and assisted living facilities. If you believe a family member has suffered a serious injury or died as a result of abuse or neglect in a nursing home, you should contact the experienced, nursing home litigation attorneys at Suthers Law Firm. For more information on nursing home abuse and neglect, see the page entitled “Nursing Home Resource Center” at the website of the Suthers Law Firm, www.sutherslaw.com.