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$90 Million Manor Care Verdict Stays (for Now) As Judge Denies New Trial

While large verdicts make headlines and seem to indicate the end of a long legal process–in many cases the verdict is just another stage in a prolonged battle. That is particularly true in cases where the verdict is large, where there were hotly contested issues, and/or if there are unique aspects to the case and liability. In those situations, the party that does not receive that verdict that they wish often use every available legal tool at their disposal to appeal and otherwise delay the time when there is a final resolution. In the nursing home neglect context, this usually involves large nursing home companies who fight tooth and nail from having to pay money following unfavorable verdicts.

Manor Care Neglect Judgement
For example, one of the largest ever verdicts against a nursing home company was reached in 2011. The legal case began as a somewhat typical nursing home neglect wrongful death case filed by a man who claimed that his mother’s passing was caused by systematic negligence at the nursing home where she lived. In addition, the lawsuit claimed that the home’s parent company, Manor Car, engaged in regular conduct that led to neglect, like short-staffing facilities.

Eventually, the case went to trial and a $90 million verdict was returned. The reason the verdict was so large was because significant punitive damages were handed down–totaling about $80 million. As reported in the Charleston Gazette, the punitive damages were reached after significant evidence was presented indicating the series of problems at the facility over a period of years that remained unaddressed. For example, in 2011, the home where the original resident in the case died, actually lost its Medicare and Medicaid funding because of a laundry list of quality of care violations. Before that, in 2009 another survey showed that the care at the home was very short-staffed–placing residents lives at risk.

Sadly, as is all too common, these previous signs of risks were mostly ignored, ultimately leading to unnecessary elderly suffering and death.

This large verdict was meant as a clear punishment for the egregious conduct on the part of Manor Care to prioritize its own profits over patients care. The hope is that the company will begin making changes to ensure the seniors who rely on their care will be safe. Yet, the company is still fighting to not have to pay the full verdict amount. The first step in that battle was requesting a new trial from the original judge who heard the case. That request was recently denied.

But that does not mean that the appeals process is finished. The company will likely appeal to a higher court, making claims about errors in law. Specifically, among other claims, the company believes that the award is excessive and should fall under the state’s “medical malpractice cap” laws. The appeals court may review the case, focusing exclusively on the size of the judgment and whether or not it comports with current law. If it so desires, the defendant’s could even appeal to the state’s Supreme Court (or the U.S. Supreme Court) after that. Though only a small percentage of cases are ever heard by those courts.

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Understanding Punitive Damages