We're all for free speech here at The Record. But one has to feel for Valley Center Nursing Home in South Charleston, forced to press a defamation charge in Kanawha County Circuit Court last week.

At issue: yet another batch of wayward, tasteless lawyer TV ads. These subtly beg/cajole West Virginia adult sons and daughters to use their elderly parents to sue area nursing homes for some easy cash.

"Has one of your loved ones been a victim of nursing home abuse or neglect at Valley Center, Blueridge Care and Rehabilitation Center, or any other nursing home?," the ads lead, carefully using "abuse" and "neglect" in the same sentence with local insitutions they're actually accusing of neither.

"Do you know how to spot the signs of nursing home abuse or neglect, bed sores, broken bones, unexplained injuries or even death?"

The signs of death? Sure, we know them. And when we see someone not breathing, we call the paramedics, the coroner or maybe the cops. Elderly abuse at nursing homes -- when it actually happens -- is a problem with a built-in solution: our criminal justice system.

Calling a Texas-based law firm partnering with a prolific, high-profile Chicago plaintiff's lawyer sporting a part-time Wheeling address so he can troll for clients in the Mountain State seems beside the point. That is, unless you're more interested in getting "money damages" than stopping the abuse (or "death") itself.

And we have to wonder -- where's Elliot Hicks and his State Bar Lawyer Advertising Committee on the matter?

Just last summer, Hicks was assuring us that his "19 member" investigative group wasn't, in fact, useless and could indeed police their own when the circumstances demanded it. Doesn't the blatant, self-interested besmirching of local nursing homes merit a look?

As far as we can tell, it hasn't yet. One can only imagine how quickly the Committee would have responded had the ads referenced law firms instead.

"Has one of your loved ones been a victim of law firm abuse or neglect by Wexler, Toriseva & Wallace, Pulaski & Middleton or any other law firm?"

Call it a dose of their own medicine -- and a remedy worth considering for the Valley Centers of the world. If lawyers refuse to clean their own house, someone else will eventually have to.

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