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Veterans in State-Run Long Term Care Facilities Targeted by Legislature

Daniel J. Williams, Esq.

In August of 2014, the Michigan Court of Appeals found that the governmental immunity protections provided in M.C.L. §691.1407(1) did not apply to state-run veterans homes, where the underlying claim was sounded from the medical care or medical treatment of the moving party Estate of Andrew Ball v. Grand Rapids Home for Veterans, ___ Mich. App. ___; ___ N.W.2d ___; 2014 Mich. App. Lexis 1580; COA # 314861 (August 26, 2014).

The Court found that M.C.L. §691.1407(4), the medical care and treatment exception to the governmental immunity provided by the statute, was not implicated in Ball because the allegations arose as a result of a condition that directly resulted for the complainant’s medical condition.  The condition was his reason for treatment at the facility, and as a result, the Court found a sufficient nexus was created to allow the suit to go forward under the M.C.L. §1407(4) exception to governmental immunity.

The home in question was run by the State Department of Military and Veterans Affairs.  After the decision came down in Ball, which allowed the State to be sued as a party in cases that had a nexus to medical care and treatment, a bill was introduced by that would explicitly exclude from all liability a nursing care facility that was run by the Department of Military and Veterans Affairs.  The proposed bill would amend the language of M.C.L. §691.1407(4) to explicitly exclude those facilities from the medical care and treatment exception.  The bill is before the judiciary committee for review and a result, either passage or failure, is likely to come from the legislature this year.

The proposed amendment to the bill would except all claims stemming from the care or treatment of a veteran in a State run nursing home owned by the Department of Military and Veterans Affairs from suit by the patient against the State.  In other words, if a veteran who is placed in one of these homes is injured or wrongfully dies because of a mistake that is made by an employee of the State facility, no recovery can be had against the State for negligence or improper medical care or medical treatment.  Therefore, the only attempt at recovery would be against the individual who acted negligently and any insurance that would apply to that individual. 

As a result, the possibility of collection and compensation for those veterans who are injured in that way is made substantially less likely.  Given the service these men and women have given our country, such a seemingly wide ranging prohibition in cases of this nature seems rather unfair.  Simply being a veteran who resides in a Department of Military and Veterans Affairs home should not mean that the agency charged with your care should be completely immune from liability for an injury you receive, through no fault of your own.  

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