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The Gerontologist 44:339-347 (2004)
© 2004 The Gerontological Society of America

Factors Predicting Lawsuits Against Nursing Homes in Florida 1997–2001

Christopher E. Johnson, PhD1,4,, Aram Dobalian, PhD, JD4, Janet Burkhard, MBA2, Deborah K. Hedgecock, BA3 and Jeffrey Harman, PhD4

Correspondence: Address correspondence to Christopher E. Johnson, PhD, Rehabilitation Outcomes Center of Excellence, North Florida/South Georgia Veteran's Health System, 1601 SW Archer Road, Gainesville, FL 32608-1197. Email: Christopher.Johnson4{at}

Purpose: We explore how nursing home characteristics affect the number of lawsuits filed against the facilities in Florida during the period from 1997 to 2001. Design and Methods: We examined data from 478 nursing homes in 30 Florida counties from 1997 to 2001. We obtained the data from Westlaw's Adverse Filings: Lawsuits database, the Online Survey, Certification, and Reporting system database from the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services, and state complaint surveys, and we also used primary data. We used negative binomial regression to explain total lawsuit variance by year. We controlled for acuity and year effects, and our explanatory variables included (a) facility characteristics—including staffing, number of beds, multistate system membership, and for-profit ownership—and (b) quality measures—including total number and type of state licensing survey deficiencies, pressure-sore development, and medication errors per resident. Results: Higher registered nurse and certified nursing assistant staffing levels were associated with fewer lawsuits. More deficiencies on the licensing survey and larger and for-profit nursing homes were positively related with higher numbers of lawsuits. Implications: This study suggests that nursing homes that meet long-stay staffing standards, meet minimum quality measures, are not for profit, and are smaller will experience fewer lawsuits.

Key Words: Litigation • Nursing homes • Nurse staffing • Long-term care

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Copyright © 2004 by The Gerontological Society of America.