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Consumer Protection Statute Provides No Relief for Patient

hallwayIn March of 2008, Frank Battaglia was a resident and patient of the Concord Health Care Center in Concord, Massachusetts.  Mr. Battaglia alleged that the Defendant Health Care Center had a duty to provide competent nursing and other care to the Plaintiff.  Additionally, the Plaintiff alleged that the Defendant negligently failed to provide proper and competent care, it carelessly and negligently failed to design and adhere to an appropriate plan of Care, it negligently failed to provide a safe living facility and environment to the Plaintiff, it failed to provide adequate and proper supervised care as needed, and it failed to properly assess and monitor the Plaintiff’s underlying medical condition.  As a result of the purported negligence by the Health Care facility, the Plaintiff alleged that he was caused to suffer permanent loss of function and mobility and ultimately filed a suit that proceeded to the United States District Court in Massachusetts.

In addition to the negligence claims brought above, the Plaintiff claimed a violation of Massachusetts General Law Ch. 93A, the consumer protection statute.  The Plaintiff alleged that while the Defendant was engaged in a trade or commerce (as defined by the statute) the Defendant misrepresented the quality of the services it would provide and failed to provide services in compliance with existing state and federal statutes, rules, and regulations.  As such, it was alleged that these actions (or inactions) rose to the level of unfair or deceptive trade practices for purpose of the statute, which allows for triple damages and the possibility of attorney’s fees in certain circumstances.  The Defendant filed a motion for summary judgment in response to the Plaintiff’s 93A claim.

The Health Care facility argued that the Chapter 93A claim should be dismissed based on a previous ruling by the Supreme Judicial Court in Darviris v. Petros, 812 N.E.2d 1188 (Mass. 2004).  In that case, the court held that medical malpractice was not remediable under Chapter 93A.  However, the court did hold that a Chapter 93A case may be allowed in certain circumstances.  Specifically, the court wrote:

” [T]his does not mean that all conduct of medical care providers is beyond the reach of that statute. As appellate courts in other jurisdictions have concluded, consumer protection statutes may be applied to the entrepreneurial and business aspects of providing medical services, for example, advertising and billing, even though those statutes do not reach medical malpractice claims.”

In response to the Defendant Health Care facility’s argument that his case was not appropriate for a 93A claim, the Plaintiff relied on a different ruling where an individual was allowed to proceed with his case under the consumer protection statute due to a defendant’s  bad conduct with staffing requirements and a corporate practice of understaffing its facilities to cut costs.  The court rejected any possibility as to similarities between the two cases and found that the allegations in Plaintiff;s complaint relate to negligent medical care and do not connect the business aspects of the Defendant facility (which may trigger 93A liability).  As such, Plaintiff’s claim for a violation of the consumer protection statute was dismissed.  ­His case may proceed on the merits to the underlying negligence claims- but any relief grounded in Chapter 93A have been shut out.

To read more on this case, please read Frank Battaglia v Healthbridge Management LLC, which was decided on May 29, 2014 by the United States District Court.  You can access this case on the United States District Court of Massachusetts’ website by clicking here and searching by case name.  If you believe you have a medical malpractice case, our office can help you. To schedule a free consultation with lawyer Daniel Cappetta, call our office today at (508) 969-9505 or fill out or contact form available on the right side of this page.