$29 Million Nursing Home Abuse Verdict Upheld

A Superior Court judge in Sacramento just upheld a $29 million verdict in a nursing home abuse case. The Sacramento Bee said that the “strongly worded ruling” involved a verdict against a <"http://www.yourlawyer.com/practice_areas/nursing_home_negligence">nursing home company related to the 2005 death of a senior patient.

Judge Roland Candee rejected Horizon West Healthcare’s arguments seeking a new trial or “significantly reduced damages” in a case involving Frances Tanner, 79, a retiree who worked for the FBI and the IRS, said The Bee. Tanner suffered from mild dementia when she moved into Colonial Healthcare. Seven months later, following a fall and an undiagnosed hip fracture, she was dead due to an infected bedsore, said The Bee.

Candee said the evidence presented was “overwhelming” and “devastatingly powerful” and held up the verdict and damage awards against Horizon, which owns 33 nursing homes located, for the most part, in Northern California, wrote The Bee. Testimony revealed Horizon illegally under staffs its sites and conducted business “based, time and again, predominantly on a concern for the bottom line” and not on sympathetic patient care, wrote Candee, quoted The Bee. The jury’s obvious intent was to “discourage future wrongful conduct” by its $28 million punitive damage award, added Candee.

Candee said the jury was unmoved by Colonial’s in which staff appeared, “overworked, untrained and uncaring…. There is no way, from the court’s perspective, that this case deserves a new trial,” quoted The Bee. Horizon was described as being intentionally understaffed, leading to poor care and patient oversight, a point confirmed by a former staff member who testified that he would never put a family member in that facility, reported The Bee. Horizon could either appeal or seek settlement.

Horizon argued saying it took good care of Tanner; however the jury found Horizon and Colonial were guilty of elder abuse, awarding $1.1 million in damages for her pain and suffering and her daughter’s loss, said The Bee. The next day, after the jury learned of the firm’s finances, including a net worth of some $200 million, the $28 million punitive award was made. Candee reduced pain and suffering damages to $800,000, bringing the total judgment, including $1.2 million in legal fees, to $29.1 million, likely the largest for an elder abuse case in Sacramento County, wrote The Bee.

Horizon’s lawyers argued that the damages were extreme and unsupported, among other claims, which Judge Candee rejected saying, “If this was a close-call case, maybe some of your arguments would have power…. This was an overwhelming case. It does not deserve to be retried. That would be a travesty,” reported the Sacramento Bee.

We’ve been following the issue of nursing home abuse for some time. Among other reports, a lawsuit was recently filed against the La Salle County Nursing Home in Illinois concerning allegations involving the same sexually abusive male resident and an array of female residents, most of whom were receiving treatment for dementia. A Brooklyn nursing home was ordered to pay about $19 million in damages to a family whose loved one allegedly died following abject neglect. ABC World News reported that a California nursing home used chemical restraints—drugs—to silence residents. In some cases, this practice was fatal.

Yet another accusation of neglect recently made headlines when the Ridgecrest Nursing and Rehabilitation Center in Florida was accused of, and investigated for, abuse. Graystone Healthcare Management owns Ridgecrest and operates 28 nursing homes in Florida, Indiana, and Ohio.

In another sad case involving nursing home abuse, a former aide was recently sentenced to 10 years probation for the sexual abuse of a patient at the nursing home where he had once worked, and faces up to seven years for charges brought against him by the state attorney general’s office last year.

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