In order to be licensed by the state, nursing homes have to submit to surveys which note any safety violations, and homes must either appeal or give a plan to correct violations. In addition to serving the state, they can also be a valuable tool to plaintiffs. Surveys represent an independent, unbiased, unaffected party’s view of the nursing home and help determine if it is safe for residents. Since this question is usually at or near the center of nursing home litigation, these surveys can be a great tool for plaintiffs in both investigation before trial and the trial itself.
Surveys are done by a state inspector, but must conform to federal regulations. Where can plaintiffs obtain these surveys? 42 U.S.C 1395r(c)(8) states that, “[a] Nursing facility must post in a place readily accessible to residents, family members and legal representatives of residents, the results of the most recent survey of the facility conducted under subsection (g) of this section.” Surveys are often hard to find in the facility itself. In Missouri or Kansas an Open Records request may be the best means of obtaining them. Upon receiving surveys it is important to know the different types. Standard Surveys are the federally required annual unannounced inspections which gather information about the quality of services to determine if requirements are being met. Extended surveys are conducted after a finding of substandard quality during a standard survey. Abbreviated Standard Surveys focus on particular issues relating to complaints, a change of ownership or management. Partial Extended Surveys are conducted after a finding of substandard quality during an abbreviated standard survey. Post-Survey Revisits are follow-ups which verify deficiencies found in previous surveys have been corrected.
Because they show issues of the nursing home, surveys are valuable tools in litigation. They are most valuable in discovery, even more so than at trial. Surveys can be reviewed with nursing home staff in depositions. If there are deficiencies there will be a plan of correction. Nursing home staff should be asked if they followed the standard of care in looking after the client. If they admit they did not then the survey may have established a breach of the standard of care and that the nursing home was the cause of damages to the plaintiff. Surveys can be more or less effective depending on the case. In cases of elopement, wandering or understaffing they are very valuable. This is also true of cases involving precautions and procedures to prevent pressure sores and falls. No matter what the nursing home negligence involves it is almost always worth the time to get surveys of the nursing home where the plaintiff was injured. Doing so can be the difference in making sure plaintiffs receive the compensation they deserve.