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New Jersey Enacts Law That Increases Abuse Reporting Requirements, Shrinks Fines for Failing to Report

Published September 13, 2017 by Brady Cobin Law Group, PLLC

With the maximum penalty for failing to report abuse reduced from $5,000 to $500, some claim that Peggy’s Law simply aligns state law with federal regulations.

An article from McKnight’s Senior Living, “NJ law increases requirements, decreases some fines in reporting of suspected abuse cases,” that provides the history behind “Peggy’s Law,” which took seven years to become law and has been modified from when it was first introduced.

The law requires caregivers, social workers, physicians, nurses and other assisted care facility workers to report suspected abuse or exploitation of residents to local law enforcement and the state ombudsman. The law imposes time limits based on the type of suspected abuse.

The law is named for Peggy Marzolla. In 2010, Peggy was a 93-year-old resident of a facility in New Jersey. She was taken to the hospital after the senior living community’s staff reported that she’d slipped on powder. Her injuries reportedly included bruises and several broken bones. She died two months later.

Her daughter, Maureen, didn’t believe the explanation given by the facility and began a campaign to tighten state laws against elder abuse. A lawsuit filed by Maureen against the care facility was settled out of court.

Long-term care facilities, skilled nursing care centers and assisted living communities must report incidents to the state’s Department of Health, and crimes must also be reported to law enforcement, especially when the potential for harm or actual serious bodily injury occurs.

Law enforcement must be notified of serious injuries within two hours and other crimes within 24 hours. Facilities where reporting doesn’t happen on time are subject to a maximum fine of $2,500 under the new law.

Senators Jim Holzapfel and Diane Allen are two of the bill’s seven primary sponsors.

The dramatic change in the penalty for failing to report abuse has generated concern from elder advocates. However, the President and CEO of the Health Care Association of New Jersey says that the new law does not require it to make any changes to reporting requirements now in effect.

Reference: McKnight’s Senior Living (August 8, 2017) “NJ law increases requirements, decreases some fines in reporting of suspected abuse cases.”

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