A recent associated press article discusses the largest jury verdict in the country this year; 677 million dollars. The case was a class action suit in Hamboldt County, California consisting of 32,000 patients at a California nursing home. As a lawyer who practices nursing home neglect and abuses cases I find this article of particular interest. Not only does the article address the large jury verdict but, more importantly, it addresses the reasons that poor care is often given in nursing homes.
The case began when residents of a California nursing home were receiving poor care. The daughter of one patient described finding her father soaked in urine. Not only can such neglect occur in nursing homes but also, injuries such as bed sores can be caused by a lack of turning the patients. As the article indicates, poor care is given in nursing homes because they are understaffed.
Understaffing in nursing homes means there are not enough nurses and aides to give proper care to each and every patient. California law requires 3.2 nursing hours per patient per day. However, the nursing home in this case did not meet that standard. Kentucky, despite years of lobbying, has no such minimum staffing requirements in place.
While there are also no federal requirements for the staffing of nursing homes, the federal recommendation is 4.1 nursing hours per patient per day. The understaffing is due to the fact that nursing homes are profit-driven companies. Being profit-driven means that nursing homes might be more focused on their bottom line than concerned with the care they give patients.
The nursing home in this case is challenging the 677 million dollar verdict. First, the nursing home asked for a mistrial for juror misconduct, but the court denied it. Second, the nursing home may appeal; however, they may not have the ability to appeal because they would be required to post 150% of the verdict as a bond which equals over one billion dollars.
Such a challenge, however, is not uncommon. In fact, some say that large verdicts are examples of litigation abuse. Such opinions form a theory that is referred to as tort reform. Tort reform would place caps on litigation or damages that injured persons could receive. Tort reform could make it harder not only to file a lawsuit, but to recover damages for injuries as well.
Be sure to download our book "Nursing Homes: What You Absolutely, Positively Must Know Before Choosing One"
And, see our video about nursing home abuse and neglect.