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Predatory crusaders

BMJ 2001; 323 doi: (Published 01 November 2001) Cite this as: BMJ 2001;323:0111431
  1. Andrew Papanikitas, final year medical student1
  1. 1Guys, King's, and St Thomas's Medical School

One half of the team known as “the US nursing home industry's most hated men” speaks to Andrew Papanikitas

As America ages, the decision to put a frail, elderly parent into a nursing home confronts tens of thousands of families each year. At the same time, the $87bn a year nursing home industry is coming under increasing attack. The federal government estimates that violations in more than a quarter of homes harm residents or are potentially fatal.

With highway billboards and a multistate team of about 50 lawyers, Jim Wilkes and Tim McHugh own the Wilkes and McHugh law firm. The firm has in the last decade exploded out of Florida in pursuit of plaintiffs' complaints against nursing homes. The nursing home industry has described Jim Wilkes as evil, Beelzebub, and the antichrist. The director of the Alabama Nursing Home Association called him “a migratory predator.” Malpractice lawyers expect to win settlements and seven figure verdicts this year.

The industry charges that Wilkes and his ilk have unfairly demonised nursing homes and are driving them into bankruptcy. Wilkes maintains that nursing homes are “inherently evil” and that he would love to put them all out of business--and himself out of a job. “The concept of warehousing the elderly this way …

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