Ohio Supreme Court Rules Nurse Fired For Reporting Suspected Ohio Nursing Home Abuse Can Pursue Whistleblower Claim
Ohio Supreme court rule employees who report suspected Ohio nursing home abuse or neglect of a resident in a long-term or residential care facility are not required to report their suspicions to the Ohio director of health in order to state a claim for retaliatory discharge under Ohio’s whistleblower protection statute (R.C. 3721.24). The state high court’s 6-1 decision released on December 23, 2014 allows a registered nurse to pursue her claim of being fired for reporting suspected Ohio nursing home abuse or neglect of a resident at a Southwestern Ohio residential care facility. The nurse worked for an organization that oversaw the care of terminally ill patients at the facility. The state Supreme Court sent the Ohio whistle blower case involving Ohio nursing home abuse back to the trial court to reinstate the nurse’s retaliatory-discharge claim under the whistleblower protection statute. The trial court originally dismissed the nurse’s lawsuit after the defendants argued that she did not report her suspicions to the Ohio health director. (Hamilton County Court of Common Pleas, Case No. A-1201578) The high court said it was sending the case back without making any judgments on the merits of the nurse’s claims. (Hulsmeyer v. Hospice of Southwest Ohio, Inc., Slip Opinion No. 2014-Ohio-5511)
Wright & Schulte LLC has successfully represented Ohio families in nursing home and neglect cases. The compassion team of Ohio attorneys are advocates for patient rights and the respected care of Ohio’s elders. If you suspect someone you know is a victim of Ohio nursing home abuse contact our offices by calling 1-800-399-0795 or visit www.yourohiolegalhelp.com There is always someone available 24 hours, 7 days a week, to answer your questions.
In writing the opinion for the majority, Ohio Supreme Court Justice Sharon L. Kennedy explained that the Ohio whistleblower protection statute (R.C. 3721.24) and the residential care reporting requirements to the Ohio health director (R.C. 3721.22) were both passed in 1990. According to the opinion, the purpose of the Ohio whistleblower protection statute is to protect people from retaliatory discharge for reporting suspected Ohio elder abuse or Ohio nursing home neglect of residents in long-term care and residential care facilities. In this case, Justice Kennedy wrote, the nurse’s reporting of the suspected abuse or neglect to the facility and the resident’s children “triggered the protection” of the whistleblower’s protection statute.
Justice Kennedy further explained that the state’s Residential Reporting Requirements to the Ohio Department of Health legislation explicitly requires licensed health professionals to report suspected abuse or neglect to the Ohio director of health. The statute also allows anyone, including a resident of a facility, to report suspected abuse to the Ohio health director. “The purpose of requiring that such reports be made to the director of health is that the director of health has the authority and obligation to investigate, make findings, and report findings of abuse or neglect to law enforcement,” Justice Kennedy wrote. The statute also provides immunity from both civil lawsuits and criminal prosecution to people who report the suspected abuse or neglect.
Ohio laws urge health care professionals, family members as well as citizens to report any suspected abuse or neglect of older adults. Many seniors who are abused or neglected suffer in silence because they are not able or not willing to admit that they are being physically or emotionally abused. In some instances, they are not able to speak up because they fear their abusers, which is why reporting mistreatment of the elderly is essential. According to the National Nursing Home Report Cards, Ohio has some of the lowest ratings in the nation for care, the number of staff and treatment of nursing home patients. The national organization lowered Ohio’s grade from “C” to a “D” in 2013-2014.
[nursinghomereportcards.com/state/oh/, January 2015]
[ohio.com/blogs/legal-news/legal-news-1.513148/anyone-can-report-nursing-home-abuse-in-ohio-1.542652, November 20, 2014]
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