Earlier this month in Sacramento, a judge upheld a $23 million jury award in a case where an elderly woman died from bedsores, reported UT San Diego. This nursing home abuse occurred at a Northern California assisted living facility owned by the Emeritus senior living corporation. In addition to the original verdict, the judge actually added an additional $4.3 million in legal costs and fees, according to the Sacramento Bee.
This recent decision will have important implications in nursing home abuses cases in California. The high verdict sends a message to nursing homes and assisted living facilities in our state that they need to take better care of residents if they want to avoid lawsuits for nursing home abuse and neglect. If they don’t, they’ll have to pay. If you are concerned about an elderly loved in in a nursing home or assisted living facility, it’s important to speak to an elder justice advocate. Your loved one and your family may be eligible for compensation.
The Victim’s Story
Five years ago, an Alzheimer’s patient sustained bedsores while she resided at the Emeritus at Emerald Hills, an assisted living facility in Auburn, California. She later moved out of the assisted living facility, and she died only a few months later. According to the Sacramento Bee, the death certificate indicates that pressure ulcers had been a “substantial factor in her death.” The victim was 82 years old when she passed away.
The family brought a claim against the Emeritus senior living corporation, which is based in Seattle.
Details of the Case
Earlier this year, the victim’s family received a $23 million jury verdict for the death of their loved one. After that verdict on March 8, Emeritus sought either a reduction in the verdict amount or a new trial. In seeking to pay out less than the jury awarded, Emeritus claimed that the $23 million award was “far beyond the ratios suggested in established case law that ties punitive awards to a single-digit multiplier of the plaintiff’s actual damages.”
Yet, it seems that the jury’s award fell within the range of the multiplier. The jury awarded the victim’s family $3.875 million for her pain and suffering, which became the base figure for the punitive award. Compared to the punitive award, it looks like a ration of about 6 to 1, which falls within the appropriate range.
Punitive awards can be quite controversial. They’re not intended to “make a victim whole” as most legal remedies do, but instead they’re intended to punish the perpetrator for a particularly bad act. So, unlike compensatory remedies that compensate a victim for specific losses, there’s no particular number, or economic amount, to “repay” in an award of punitive damages. Unsurprisingly, Emeritus claims that the punitive award was too high in this case.
Emeritus says that the punitive award should have been capped at $250,000 based on a cap set by California state law for assisted living lawsuits and medical malpractice cases. However, the judge didn’t tell the jury about the cap, and she indicated that it’s not a hard and fast one. Rather, limitations on pain and suffering awards in assisted living cases should be “a question of first impression.” In cases like this one where Emeritus’ negligence was especially egregious, the judge suggested that a multi-million dollar award was appropriate.
If you suspect that an elderly loved one has suffered from neglect in a nursing home or assisted living facility, contact an experienced nursing home abuse lawyer today to discuss your case.
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Jury Awards $42 Million in Nursing Home Bedsore, Dehydration Case