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“The resident shall be treated with consideration, respect and full recognition of dignity and individuality, including privacy in treatment and in care for the necessary personal and social needs.” You’ll find this in Title 28 of Pennsylvania Code. Unfortunately, you won’t find it in practice in every nursing home. According to statistics compiled by the National Center on Elder Abuse in the United States, more than 30% of all nursing homes in America experience some form of resident abuse, whether it’s by staff or other residents.

What Constitutes Abuse in a NURSING HOME?

Title 28 defines abuse as “The infliction of injury, unreasonable confinement, intimidation or punishment with resulting physical harm or pain or mental anguish, or deprivation by an individual, including a caretaker, of goods or services that are necessary to attain or maintain physical, mental and psychosocial well-being.”

Abuse includes the following:

  • Physical abuse — The intentional infliction of physical pain or injury to the victim, which may include hitting, slapping, pinching, kicking or restraining by physical or chemical means.
  • Verbal abuse — Any use of oral, written or gestured language that willfully includes disparaging and derogatory terms to residents or their families, or within their hearing range.
  • Mental abuse — The deliberate infliction of mental pain, anguish or distress through humiliation, harassment, threats of punishment or deprivation.
  • Sexual abuse — Any nonconsensual sexual act including sexual harassment, sexual coercion or sexual assault.
  • Involuntary seclusion — Separation of a resident from other residents or from his or her room or confinement to the room against the resident’s will, or that of the resident’s legal representative.
  • Neglect — The failure of a caregiver to meet the needs of the patient or resident. This commonly occurs when a resident doesn’t receive proper medical, physical, or emotional attention.

Although it does not appear in Title 28, financial exploitation constitutes abuse. Aside from caretaker abuse and neglect, it is the most frequent type of abuse against Pennsylvania elders. It involves illegally taking, misusing or concealing personal funds, property or assets.

Nursing Home Abuse and Neglect Warning Signs:

There are a number of warning signs that the family of a nursing home resident should be mindful of. They include:

  • broken bones or fractures
  • bruising or pressure marks
  • cuts abrasions or welts
  • burns
  • bed sores
  • dehydration
  • unusual weight loss
  • poor hygiene
  • fear of being alone
  • agitation
  • frequent crying
  • unexplained withdrawal from normal activities
  • sudden change in alertness
  • overwhelming sadness
  • sudden and unexplained withdrawals from bank accounts
  • unexplained transfer of money or assets
  • abrupt changes in the resident’s will or other legal documents

Best Legal Theory to Proceed On

Pennsylvania tort law provides nursing home residents with the right to seek financial compensation for injury resulting from abuse, neglect, or accidents. Claims are based on principals known as “legal theories”. In a lawsuit against a nursing home, a number of theories may be applicable. They include intentional tort, negligence, premises liability, medical malpractice, wrongful death, and even breach of contract.

Physical abuse by a nursing home might result in a lawsuit for the intentional tort of battery.

A financial exploitation case may revolve around the intentional torts of conversion or fraud.
Elopement (unsupervised wandering which results in a resident leaving the nursing home facility) can be the result of negligence. So can falls, which occur twice as often in nursing homes than among elderly people living in the community. Falls can also result from a dangerous condition in the nursing home, giving rise to a premises liability claim. Medical malpractice may be the basis for a lawsuit when the underlying care involved the practice of medicine, e.g., the treatment of bedsores. In some cases, it may be beneficial to raise a breach of contract claim.

As HKQ Law Attorney Ryan Molitoris points out, “An experienced personal injury attorney can determine the most effective legal theory or theories to assert given your specific circumstances.”

Recovering Damages

Financial compensation for successful plaintiffs falls into three categories:

Economic: Covers monetary expenditures necessitated as a result of the defendant’s wrongdoing. In nursing home lawsuits those costs are primarily related to medical treatment, as loss of wages are not typically involved.
Non-economic: Compensates for physical pain, emotional anguish, loss of enjoyment of life and loss of consortium.
Punitive: Includes damages designed to punish defendants for their willful or recklessly indifferent actions and to deter others from similar future misconduct.

Nursing home abuse or neglect can result in serious injury or even death. If you believe your loved one might have been the victim of nursing home mistreatment, contact HKQ Law at (800) 760-1529.

About HKQ Law

Hourigan, Kluger & Quinn is considered one of the top civil litigation and commercial law firms that has had the privilege of representing more families in the courtroom than any other NEPA firm. The attorneys at HKQ Law have been honored as Super Lawyers, Best Lawyers, Best Law Firms by US News and World Report, and have received the AV Preeminent Rating by Martindale-Hubbel. HKQ Law was recently recognized for one of the top 20 Verdicts in Pennsylvania.

The firm’s Personal Injury Team, led by Attorney Joe Quinn, Jr., has won some of the largest verdicts and settlements in the region's history. The Personal Injury Team focuses on a wide array of personal injury claims and civil litigation, including medical malpractice, auto and truck accidents, aviation accidents, unsafe vehicles, dangerous or defective products, workplace injuries (worker's compensation), construction site accidents, claim denials by insurance companies, dangerous drugs, defective children's products, nursing home abuse and neglect, and falls due to unsafe conditions (slip and fall).

Attorney Joseph A Quinn, Jr. is one of only 100 attorneys in the United States (and one of only three in Pennsylvania) honored with membership in the Inner Circle of Trial Advocates, and one of only 500 attorneys worldwide chosen to be a Fellow of the International Academy of Trial Lawyers. He has been a Pennsylvania Super Lawyer every year since the program began and has been listed in The Best Lawyers in America every year since the publication was established in 1987. Best Lawyers also named him top personal injury attorney for Northeastern Pennsylvania and the Lehigh Valley. In addition, Best Lawyers, in conjunction with U.S. News & World Report, has designated HKQ a Tier 1 Best Law Firm across multiple categories in Northeastern Pennsylvania and the Lehigh Valley.

Since the inception of the firm, the Commercial / Corporate Team led by Attorney Allan Kluger has provided comprehensive, integrated legal services to many of Northeastern and Eastern Pennsylvania's largest corporations, businesses, banks, non-profits and institutions, handling matters involving labor and employment, wills, trusts and estate planning, estate administration, elder law, commercial transactions, residential and commercial real estate, zoning, land use and development, telecommunications, mediations and arbitrations, commercial litigation, title insurance, business planning and business succession, corporate/business structuring, employment discrimination law for employers, banking, creditor’s rights, finance, lender liability defense, covenants not to compete, construction law, mergers and acquisitions and other business matters.

Additional information can be found at or by calling (800) 760-1529.



As Hourigan, Kluger and Quinn addresses the concerns raised by COVID-19, the health and safety of our clients, employees and friends of the firm remain our top priority.

These are very difficult and scary times and we hope that you and your loved ones are safe and symptom free. We recognize that so many of you are understandably anxious about your health, the economic impact of this pandemic and all of the consequences of social isolation.

We also recognize that many of you are anxious about how the coronavirus is impacting the Court systems, our firm and your cases. Although all of our offices are closed, our firm has remained fully operational and we have initiated procedures that allow all of our attorneys and staff to work remotely from their homes. Each of us and our staff will respond to any emails and calls about your cases as quickly as possible.

Our Federal and State Courts have instituted significant changes in their calendars as a result of the coronavirus. Although most courthouses are closed to the public, and Hearings and Trials will be delayed for some time, there are matters that can proceed telephonically and by video. Despite these changes in the Court calendars, we are working diligently on your cases and are determined to do whatever we possibly can to assure an early and just recovery for you and your loved ones. Even under these difficult circumstances, we believe that "Nobody will work harder for you than we will."

With regard to new potential clients, we are not in a position to have an in-person new client meeting, but we will be conducting these initial meetings via phone. New potential clients should call us for a free telephone consultation at (570) 287-3000.


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