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Legislators target 'renegade' law firm with nursing home bill

Jim WilkesJim Wilkes has a target on his back.

The Tampa-based trial lawyer whose success at suing nursing homes for neglect and abuse of residents has drawn millions in damages from the industry.

It has also brought their wrath — and they’ve turned to the Florida Legislature to stop him. 

Wilkes’ model, which has been successfully employed in Florida and eight states where he has offices, is to not only target the owners and management companies — which can often be shell companies that shield the assets of owners and investors — but to target the investors, vendors and contractors, when he can show they have a role in the company’s decision-making. He also seeks large punitive damages.

In Polk County, where a nursing home shut down its management company after Wilkes sued, he won a $1 billion judgment in 2012 when the company didn’t put up a defense. In Pinellas County, a jury awarded $200 million to the family of a nursing home patient who died of neglect.

“They keep putting companies in bankruptcy and transferring assets, and we follow the assets and now the courts are able to go up the ladder,’’ said Wilkes, 63.

The result, the industry says, is having a chilling effect on investment income into nursing homes in Florida — at a time when older nursing homes want to update and retrofit in preparation for a surge in growth with the aging of baby boomers. Story here. 

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