Whether you have an elderly loved one who lives in San Diego County or elsewhere in California, it is important to understand how elder abuse laws in our state can help to provide compensation for seniors who suffer injuries as a result of abuse and neglect in the assisted living setting. According to a recent report from the North Coast Journal, a California jury awarded $5 million to the family of an elderly woman who died while under the care of Timber Ridge McKinleyville. The jury, according to the article, “found the facility liable for wrongful death and elder abuse.” Of the $5 million jury verdict, $2.5 million in punitive damages was awarded.
Congratulations to attorneys Tim Needham and Michael Thamer for such outstanding work on behalf of this family.
This jury verdict emphasizes the importance of speaking with an experienced San Diego County nursing home abuse lawyer in the event that an elderly loved one sustains serious or fatal injuries resulting from elder abuse or neglect. If you have questions, do not hesitate to contact the Walton Law Firm.
Nursing Home Neglect Results in Elderly Patient’s Death
What are the facts of the case? The lawsuit began in September 2013 when a 90-year-old Californian, Marjorie Fitzpatrick, sustained serious injuries while under the care of Timber Ridge McKinleyville, an assisted living facility licensed by the state of California. Fitzpatrick had been a dementia patient at the facility, and according to the article, she “made her way into a courtyard and fell, breaking her wrist and nose and suffering a sub-arachnoid hemorrhage and intravicular hematoma (brain injuries).” After the patient fell, she remained lying on the ground for anywhere from 30 minutes to 45 minutes before an employee of Timber Ridge McKinleyville noticed her. She was hospitalized, but she died within a month from her injuries.
After Fitzpatrick’s death, her daughter, Valerie Monschke, filed a claim against Timber Ridge McKinleyville. Monschke alleged that the facility’s failure to provide her mother with anti-anxiety medication on the day she fell contributed to her death. As a result of the assisted living facility’s failure to provide the medication, Monschke contended, her mother has been “manic and agitated.” Timber Ridge McKinleyville’s failure to provide the medication rose to the level of elder abuse, Monschke argued. In addition, the failure of any of the facility’s staff to notice Fitzpatrick after she had fallen is indicative of neglect. The article emphasizes that when Fitzpatrick walked out of the facility into the courtyard, she actually triggered an alarm, yet it still took staff members at least 30 minutes to find her.
Jury Finds in Favor of Plaintiff in Awarding Compensatory and Punitive Damages
Given the facts of the case, Monschke claimed that Timber Ridge McKinleyville had inadequate staff, and that the facility was not properly equipped to provide care—or even to train staff to care—for patients with dementia. Specifically, she alleged that the facility “failed to properly monitor [Fitzpatrick] to prevent falls,” particularly given that the patient had a previous history of falls.
The jury in the case agreed with Monschke, and it awarded $2.5 million in compensatory damages. The jury also awarded an additional $2.5 million in punitive damages. While compensatory damages are designed to compensate plaintiffs for losses suffered, punitive damages are designed to punish defendants for particularly egregious behavior and to deter such conduct in the future.
Contact a San Diego County Nursing Home Abuse Attorney
That the jury found in favor of the plaintiff is a good sign for San Diego County residents who are considering filing a nursing home abuse lawsuit. If you have questions, a dedicated elder abuse attorney in San Diego can speak with you today. Contact the Walton Law Firm to learn more.
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(image courtesy of M. Connors)