Nursing Home To Pay $23 Million in Wrongful Death and Elder Abuse Lawsuit

by Bisnar Chase on March 15, 2013

A Sacramento Superior Court jury slammed the Emeritus Corp. for $23 million in punitive damages in connection with a wrongful death and elder abuse lawsuit filed and won by the family of an elderly Alzheimer’s patient who died after spending three months in one of the company’s assisted living facilities in Auburn, California.

According to a news report in The Sacramento Bee, 82-year-old Joan Boice died in February 2009, three months after she left Emeritus at Emerald Hill with bedsores spreading over portions of her body.

Compensatory and Punitive Damages

The jury deliberated for less than a day and determined that punitive damages should be awarded as well. The same jury came back on March 11, 2013 with a finding of liability against Emeritus and that the company acted “with malice, oppression and fraud” in its treatment of Boice.

At the end of the liability phase of the trial, the jury awarded $3.875 million to the plaintiffs for Boice’s pain and suffering. That award was however capped at $250,000 by the judge due to a California law that applies to medical malpractice cases.

The lawsuit was filed by three of Boice’s children. Her son, Eric, told the Bee that he and his family members hope that the punitive damages serve as a wake up call to this company as well as others. During the trial, testimony showed that the nursing home had no caregivers on duty during the overnight shift. Company officials have said that they will appeal the jury award.

Holding Corporations Accountable

Punitive damages in personal injury and wrongful death lawsuits are a method of punishing or penalizing an entity for its wrongdoing. In this particular case, jurors have determined that the nursing home was negligent in understaffing its facility and neglecting Boice. They believed that this negligence or abuse led to Boice’s tragic death at the nursing home.

Hopefully, these punitive damages will serve as a wakeup call for change in this company and others who may think that they can get away with understaffing their facilities and shortchanging elderly, vulnerable residents.

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