Circuit Court Ruling Levels Field Between Families & Medicare

A circuit court ruling issued at the end of last month has the potential to offer significant protections for Oregon families considering wrongful death claims related to Oregon nursing home abuse and neglect or medical malpractice.

The case, formally known as Bradley v Sebelius, turns on a wrongful death claim in Florida. After Charles Burke died in early 2005 his ten surviving children sued the nursing home where he had lived prior to his final hospitalization claiming that the nursing home’s negligence led to the infection that eventually killed their father. The case was settled out-of-court without reaching trial, with the nursing home’s insurer agreeing to a claim of $52,500 – the maximum that the home’s liability insurance policy would allow.

At that point, however, Medicare stepped in demanding that around half of the total settlement be remitted to the government to reimburse Medicare’s expenditures for Burke’s hospital care prior to his death. A probate court ruled against Medicare, deciding that it was entitled only to a share of the wrongful death settlement and awarding the government $787.50. Medicare took the case to federal court and won at the district level. That decision has now been reversed by the 11th Circuit Court of Appeals.

The 11th Circuit covers Florida, Georgia and Alabama. Technically speaking the ruling is binding only in those states. Federal courts throughout the country, however, are bound to take notice of it – and the ruling offers Oregon wrongful death attorneys a powerful precedent they may cite when arguing similar Oregon nursing home abuse and neglect claims in our own courts.

Situations like this are examples of exactly the sort of complex legal issues that a Portland wrongful death attorney can sort through on clients’ behalf. If you have been forced to surrender a substantial portion of a Portland wrongful death settlement to Medicare, Medicaid or another government agency to reimburse costs they incurred while your loved one was still alive the government’s math is not the only thing that counts. A Portland wrongful death attorney can examine your case and advise on the best way to protect your rights.

Link to the 11th Circuit Court of Appeals opinion: Bradley v Sebelius

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