In its opinion released on August 20, 2015, the Supreme Court of Kentucky (“Kentucky Supreme Court”) addressed the various statute of limitations periods applicable to various claims arising out of nursing home care. In particular, the Kentucky Supreme Court analyzed the statute of limitations applicable to actions brought pursuant to KRS 216.515, which sets forth certain rights of nursing home residents. The Kentucky Supreme Court also decided whether actions based upon rights created by KRS 216.515 survive the death of the nursing home resident so that such actions may be brought after the resident’s death by the personal representative of the resident’s estate.
Kentucky law provides a one-year statute of limitations for common law personal injury claims (KRS 413.140). However, Kentucky law provides for a five-year statute of limitations for statutory causes of action (KRS 413.120(2) provides a five-year statute of limitations for “[a]n action upon a liability created by statute, when no other time is fixed by the statute creating the liability.”)
KRS 216.515 consists of twenty-six subsections enumerating specific rights conferred upon residents of long-term-care facilities. Those rights provide a variety of protections relating to a nursing home resident’s personal property, privacy, medical confidentiality, financial security, personal security, and social interaction.
The Kentucky Supreme Court stated that the central question in the case it was deciding is whether claims brought under KRS 216.515 are subject to the five-year limitations period established by KRS 413.120(2) for an action based upon a liability created by statute. To decide the question, the Kentucky Supreme Court stated that it had to parse more precisely the nature of the rights and liabilities created by the various subsections of KRS 216.515 upon which the plaintiff bases his nursing home claims (the five-year limitation period provided by KRS 413.120(2) for claims brought pursuant to a statute does not apply to claims based on a statutory provision that merely codifies common law liability and does not create a new theory of liability).
The Kentucky Supreme Court determined that the liabilities created for violating at least some of the rights set forth in KRS 216.515 upon which the plaintiff bases his cause of action have no apparent nexus with a common law personal injury action (e.g., the right as a nursing home resident to be treated with consideration, respect, and full recognition of dignity – such right exists independent of any claim for personal injury and is a new theory of liability not otherwise available under the common law causes of action). Hence, the Kentucky Supreme Court held that claims based upon these new theories of liability are subject to the five-year limitation period of KRS 413.140.
However, the plaintiff’s cause of action alleging violation of KRS 216.515(6) (“All residents shall be free from mental and physical abuse . . . except in emergencies or except as thoroughly justified in writing by a physician for a specified and limited period of time and documented in the resident’s medical record”) encompasses the traditional common law duty to avoid negligently or intentionally injuring another person (the ordinary and foreseeable consequence of physical or mental abuse is personal injury to the abused person). Hence, such cause of action does not present a new theory of liability and thus is subject to the one-year limitation of KRS 413.140(1)(a).
The Kentucky Supreme Court stated that some of the plaintiff’s KRS 216.515 claims were not in the nature of a personal injury action and thus were not necessarily extinguished by the expiration of the one-year limitation period. Therefore, it had to decide whether those claims survived the nursing home resident’s death so that they could be properly brought by the administrator of the resident’s estate.
The Kentucky Supreme Court held that to the extent that the plaintiff’s claims are based upon liabilities created by KRS 216.515 and are not simply restatements of the common law personal injury action, KRS 411.140 does not provide for their survival beyond the death of the resident (actions otherwise brought to enforce rights created exclusively by KRS 216.515 must be brought by the “resident or his guardian” pursuant to KRS 216.515(26), and therefore do not survive the resident’s death).
Source Overstreet v. Kindred Nursing Centers Limited Partnership, et al., 2013-SC-000620-DG.
If you or a loved one suffered injuries (or worse) during a nursing home stay in Kentucky or in another U.S. state due to nursing home neglect, nursing home negligence, or nursing home abuse, you should promptly contact a local nursing home claim lawyer in Kentucky or in your U.S. state who may investigate your possible nursing home claim for you and file a nursing home claim on your behalf, if appropriate.
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