Florida Nursing Home Attempts To Silence Abuse Allegations By Filing Defamation Lawsuit
Reports of nursing home abuse are all too common in Florida. Family members are often outraged to discover the mistreatment suffered by their loved ones at the hands of those charged with protecting the elderly and vulnerable. Oftentimes, these family members feel they have no choice but to take public and legal action to call out these acts of abuse.
Of course, the companies that operate nursing homes are often not at all eager to acknowledge or admit abuse. They may even take unusual steps to prevent cases of abuse from even becoming public. Fortunately, the law offers protection for those individuals who seek to act as nursing home “whistleblowers.”
A recent decision from the Florida Fifth District Court of Appeal, Curvey v. Avante Group, Inc., provides a case in point. This case features an adult daughter who sought to confront the abuse of her mother by a nursing home. The daughter sued the nursing home for negligence. She also set up a website that outlined her abuse allegations and communicated by e-mail with other third parties about her concerns.
In response to these public statements, the nursing home turned around and filed its own lawsuit against the daughter, alleging she committed defamation. The nursing home asked a Florida judge to issue a temporary injunction–effectively an order silencing the daughter until the resolution of the defamation claim. The judge ultimately issued the injunction, which identified 17 specific areas the daughter could not continue to make public comments about.
The daughter asked the judge to lift the injunction, arguing it violated her right to freedom of speech under the First Amendment to the U.S. Constitution. The judge denied the motion, prompting the daughter’s appeal to the Fifth District.
The Court of Appeal agreed with the daughter that the injunction violated the First Amendment. As a matter of law, the Fifth District explained, a temporary injunction “is not available to prohibit the making of defamatory statements.” Such an injunction constitutes an unlawful “prior restraint” of speech. The appellate court therefore dissolved the injunction.
Speak with a Florida Nursing Home Neglect Attorney Today
Nobody should ever feel as if they should not speak out against possible acts of nursing home abuse or neglect because they fear retaliation. But it is also important to recognize, as the case above illustrates, that nursing home operators will often do “whatever it takes” to defend their own bottom lines, even if it means going after family members who step forward and complain.
What this means is that if you do suspect that a family member is being abused at a nursing home, you should not try and handle the issue alone. You need to work with an experienced Boca Raton nursing home abuse lawyer who can advise you as to the law and effectively represent your interests in court. Contact Leifer & Ramirez today to schedule a free consultation with a member of our team.