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“Shining a light on this problem is important.”

Published on June 23rd, 2020

The New York Times reported on what happened to one victim of coronavirus, the mother in law of Nils Lofgren, the guitarist for Bruce Springsteen’s E Street Band.  Before the coronavirus outbreak in America, Lofgren and his wife, Amy, moved her mother into Brookdale Senior Living, a nursing home in Florham Park, N.J.

Almost immediately, Patricia J. Landers, Mrs. Lofgren’s mother, began complaining about missing medications and lapses in supervision. The family noticed a pattern of neglect, particularly in treating her dementia. Then, in April, Mrs. Landers, was discovered by police officers walking aimlessly on a frigid night, three miles away from Brookdale, shivering, bruised and confused. It was her fourth wandering incident from the facility since she arrived in January.

A week later, Mrs. Landers was admitted to a hospital in Montclair, where she tested positive for Covid-19.

“It’s a pledge they made, a sacred pledge, to take care of your father, your mother, your grandparents, and they put it in writing, by the way, and now they don’t want to have any responsibilities because, why, it’s too hard?  We’re just horrified that people’s first reaction is, ‘Well we’re making a lot of money, but now let’s make sure we’re not liable for what we promised to do, in writing,’” Mr. Lofgren said. “Don’t forget, they look you in the eye and say your loved one will be cared for.”

Incensed and feeling betrayed, the Lofgrens ran into a troubling trend: Lobbyists from nursing homes across the country were pushing for immunity protection from lawsuits during the coronavirus crisis.

In April, New Jersey’s governor, Philip D. Murphy, signed a law that “provides civil and criminal immunity to certain health care professionals and health care facilities during public health emergency and state of emergency.” The intent of the law was to protect health care workers coming out of retirement or shipping in from other states from lawsuits as they dealt with the unknowns of the virus. The governor’s office said that the law would indeed cover nursing homes for coronavirus cases.

Mr. Lofgren and his family were determined to take action, knowing that his status in New Jersey as a guitarist for the state’s pre-eminent hero would call attention to the issue.

We think that this is going to be just the tip of the iceberg, and the care provided to the senior citizens and parents and grandparents over the past weeks has been nothing short, in the majority of cases, of grossly negligent,” said Andrew Miltenberg, the lawyer for the Lofgrens. “And the industry as a whole, its response has been to push for immunity.”

The lawsuit describes the ordeal as “every child’s worst nightmare” and follows a familiar path of confusing information and radio silence as nursing homes were quickly overrun by the virus. The family accuses the facility of negligence, fraud, deceptive trade practices and a violation of a New Jersey state law that protects the rights of nursing home residents.

Mr. Lofgren, who is also a member of Neil Young’s band Crazy Horse, said he knew he was fortunate to even be in a position to have a lawyer who can help them bring a case in New Jersey.

“It’s a nightmare because 99 percent of most people can’t even afford a lawyer,” he said. “And they just take it, and their families are decimated by it.”

“It’s unconscionable and immoral and disgusting,” Mr. Lofgren said. “It’s like their true colors are coming out, and I hope we can hold them accountable.”

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