Eastern Kentucky nursing home owner pushes for roadblocks to elder-abuse lawsuits

Nestled on a hillside above Perry County Central High School, the Hazard Health & Rehabilitation Center was unlike any home Mae Campbell ever had.

There, on separate occasions in 2009, two male residents sexually abused the now 91-year-old widow and Alzheimer’s patient, once within sight of a nursing supervisor. The state said the nursing home “failed to protect” its residents from roving sexual predators in their midst. The home and its administrator were spared a criminal trial by paying a $20,000 fine.

Hazard Health & Rehab also was home for Glenda Lykins, a dementia patient who tended to wander and fell 11 times, finally breaking a hip in 2011 before she was moved out. Home it was, too, for Anna Ambrose, who died there in 2006 with a gaping pressure ulcer and bedsores.

All three cases went to court. The Campbell lawsuit, which accused the nursing home of putting profits before patient safety, was settled out of court for an undisclosed dollar amount. A Perry County jury awarded the Ambrose estate $300,000, including $225,000 in punitive damages for the nursing home’s “reckless disregard” of Ambrose. The judgment was upheld on appeal. Lykins’ negligence suit, filed by her daughter Leah Stone, is scheduled for trial next May.

Regardless of whether cases like those have legal merit, the Kentucky long-term care industry wants to create a detour for people with malpractice claims. Backed by the state Republican Party and joined by hospitals, medical associations and the Kentucky Chamber of Commerce, the industry is pushing for a law that would require claims to be vetted by ad hoc panels of three “health care providers.” Helping to bankroll that push is the man who has thrown more money at Republican candidates in state elections than anyone else the last eight years: Hazard Health & Rehab Center owner Terry Forcht.

Read the full story from the Kentucky Center for Investigative Reporting