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Defense Verdict for Skilled Nursing Facility Against Elder Abuse Claims

February 26, 2018

A Los Angeles Superior Court Jury returned with a defense verdict in favor of a skilled nursing facility based in Ventura County after a 10-day trial in which plaintiffs sought to recover more than $15 million in compensatory damages as well as punitive damages. Murchison & Cumming Senior Partner Dan L. Longo, Esq. and Partner Mary C. Trinh, Esq. represented the defendant skilled nursing facility and defendant corporate entities.

The plaintiff, then age 79, was admitted to the skilled nursing facility to recover from a brain surgery that was performed after a series of falls at home. Within the first month of admission, the plaintiff was transferred out twice and hospitalized for medical issues relating to her significant pre-existing medical problems, which included diabetes, contractures, recurrent urinary tract infections, osteomyelitis, deep vein thrombosis and partial paralysis. On admission to the skilled nursing facility, the plaintiff was noted to have four skin ulcers. Three months later, three of the skin ulcers healed but the sacral decubitus ulcer evolved from a Stage II to an unstageable/Stage IV ulcer.

At trial, the plaintiff contended that purported poor care, reckless neglect and the defendants placing "profits over people" led to the progression of the sacral decubitus ulcer from a Stage II to an infected, life-threatening, "baseball-sized" Stage IV ulcer. The plaintiff's daughter and son asserted separate claims for negligent infliction of emotional distress and intentional infliction of emotional distress attributed to the neglect of their mother and the facility's alleged attempts to "cover up" the progression of the sacral decubitus ulcer.

There was no dispute that the sacral decubitus ulcer evolved. However, the defense successfully argued that the progression of the sacral ulcer was medically unavoidable due to the plaintiff's significant underlying serious health issues which, combined with the location of the ulcer, interfered with the healing process. Mr. Longo and Ms. Trinh also presented evidence that an interdisciplinary team closely monitored and treated the ulcer and that the family received regular updates regarding the plaintiff's condition and the care provided.

The jury returned with a defense verdict as to all causes of action after only three hours of deliberation. The case was tried before Hon. Elizabeth R. Feffer in the Stanley Mosk Courthouse, Downtown Los Angeles.