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$29 million Verdict Upheld

Published on July 20th, 2010

The Sacramento Bee reported a $29 million nursing home abuse and neglect verdict upheld by the Court in California.  A Sacramento Superior Court judge upheld a $29 million verdict against Horizon West Healthcare in the 2005 death of a resident, Frances Tanner.  The case revolved around the last months in the life of Tanner, 79, a retired public servant who worked for agencies including the FBI and the Internal Revenue Service. Tanner had mild dementia when she moved into Colonial Healthcare. Seven months later, after a fall that resulted in a hip fracture that went undiagnosed for days, she was dead of an infected bed sore.

Judge Candee said "overwhelming" and "devastatingly powerful" evidence in the trial in May supported the jury’s verdict and damage awards against Horizon, which owns 33 nursing homes.  The judge called the trial "a classic demonstration of how well the jury system works."  Candee said panel members were unimpressed by the testimony of staffers of Colonial Healthcare in Auburn, one of Horizon’s facilities, who came across as "overworked, untrained and uncaring."

Testimony proved that Horizon West Healthcare illegally understaffs its facilities and runs its business "based, time and again, predominantly on a concern for the bottom line" instead of compassionate patient care, Candee wrote. He said the jury clearly intended to "discourage future wrongful conduct" in awarding $28 million in punitive damages.

The jury ruled that Horizon and Colonial committed elder abuse and awarded $1.1 million in damages for Tanner’s pain and suffering and for her daughter’s loss of companionship. A day later, after hearing evidence about the corporation’s finances including its net worth of about $200 million, the panel made the $28 million punitive award.

Candee reduced the pain and suffering damages to $800,000. Including $1.2 million in attorney’s fees, the total judgment is for $29.1 million, believed to be the largest ever for an elder abuse case in Sacramento County.

 

Joe Pioletti
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