Are “Granny Cams” Legal and Practical in Kentucky?

On Behalf of | Jul 15, 2020 | Nursing Home Abuse And Neglect

As coronavirus quarantines persist, lots of people are asking about granny cams, which are hidden surveillance cameras in nursing home rooms. These gadgets, which are a lot like nanny cams, are usually legal in Kentucky. But, there are always some serious “if”s as to their practicality.

This issue is causing quite a stir in neighboring Missouri. Currently, surveillance cameras are illegal in the Show Me State. Some lawmakers want to change that, but there are a number of issues. Resident advocate Marjorie Moore says much of the discussion involves privacy rights as well as property rights. The current measure strikes a compromise between facilities and families. Either party can release footage only with the other party’s consent, except to law enforcement.

Frequently, the old saying is true, and a picture really is worth a thousand words. Surveillance video can offer almost irrefutable proof of physical, emotional, financial, or other kinds of nursing home abuse and neglect.

The stakes are high. Generally, a Lexington personal injury lawyer can obtain compensation for economic losses, such as medical bills, and noneconomic losses, such as pain and suffering. Perhaps more importantly, an attorney can obtain justice for victims. In most cases, the nursing home owner is financially responsible for damages.

State and Federal Law

In terms of nursing home surveillance cameras, Kentucky has no laws directly on point. However, in terms of audio and video recordings, The Bluegrass State is a single-party jurisdiction. Only one party to a conversation or other exchange must give permission to record it. So, in Kentucky and most other states, it is legal to give yourself permission to record a conversation.

A few jurisdictions are multi-party states. Everyone involved must give recording permission. Silence typically establishes consent. So, a “this call may be recorded for quality purposes” disclaimer is usually sufficient, although it is misleading.

These laws apply to surveillance cameras in private rooms. Granny cams in common areas are a different matter. The federal wiretapping law usually applies in these situations. It’s illegal to surreptitiously record an event or conversation if either party had a reasonable expectation of privacy. 

That’s a rather amorphic standard. So, the federal wiretapping law usually does not apply. Nevertheless, granny cams in common areas, and in private rooms as well, often cause more problems than they solve. More on this below.

Local Nursing Home Rules

Federal and state laws go out the window if the nursing home’s rules prohibit video surveillance. That’s often the case, and these disclaimers are often buried in the fine print. Typically, a disclaimer must contain specific language. So, it’s not enough to get out your magnifying glass and read the handbook. A Lexington personal injury attorney probably needs to examine the document as well.

For example, many nursing homes do not prohibit cameras per se. They only state that such recordings are the property of the nursing home instead of the family. 

Assume Ralph’s family secretes a granny cam in his room. The camera catches a nursing home employee violently pushing Ralph into his bed. If a Lexington personal injury attorney confronts the nursing home with the footage, the nursing home might quickly and quietly settle the matter. If it moves forward, an attorney must collect other evidence to support the claim.

On a related note, out-of-state holding companies usually own Kentucky long term care facilities. That foreign ownership makes these claims procedurally complex.

Practical Concerns

Granny cams could have a positive or negative effect on your loved one’s health and safety. These are the only things that really matter to families. And, they are all that really matters to us.

If people know or suspect that they are being filmed, they are usually on their best behavior. This factor could keep your loved one safer.

On the minus side, surveillance cameras deflate morale. And, at many area nursing homes, morale is already quite low and turnover is quite high. Adding yet another negative factor could be dangerous. Additionally, nursing home workers might avoid your loved one’s room if they know or believe they are being watched.

Think twice, and think again, before you install a granny cam in a nursing home private room. For a free consultation with an experienced personal injury lawyer in Lexington, contact the Goode Law Office, PLLC. After-hours visits are available.