One of the largest elder abuse verdicts ever handed down was upheld this week according to the Sacramento Bee. A Superior Court judge recently kept intact the $29 million verdict against Horizon West HealthCare resulting from the 2005 death of one of its residents.
Frances Tanner had retired from a life of public service with both the FBI and IRS before arriving at Horizon in 2005. While at the facility, Ms. Tanner suffered a fall that broke her hip. The broken hip went undiagnosed for days. Eventually, after being bedridden and receiving highly inadequate care, she died of an infected bed sore. Pressure sores are almost always preventable and the result of negligent nursing home care.
At trial evidence revealed that Horizon chronically understaffed its facility, violating state law which mandated a minimum number of care hours. Horizon clearly did not prioritize the care of its residents, instead sacrificing their health to operate in any way that was cheap and easy. As the opinion upholding the $29 million verdict commented, Horizon’s operation was “based, time and again, predominantly on concern for the bottom line.”
The jury awarded included $800,000 for pain and suffering and nearly $28 million in punitive damages. The punitive damage award is intended to punish the horribly inadequate, harmful, abusive conduct of Horizon. The purpose is to discourage the company (which runs 33 other nursing homes) from acting is such a harmful manner in the future.
Horizon had claimed that the award was too high. The Superior Court judge shot that idea down, noting that, “this was an overwhelming case. It does not deserve to be retried. That would be a travesty.”
Our nursing home abuse attorneys at Levin & Perconti have fought many battles on behalf of many innocent victims like Ms. Tanner who have been abused by big nursing homes chains. All residents and their family and friends need to be extra vigilant to ensure that these corporations provide appropriate care to the patients depending on them.