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Largest Nursing Home Abuse Verdict in History Shocks Industry and Riles Tort Reformers

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Humboldt County, CA–Earlier this week, a group of California jurors announced the largest verdict in history against a nursing home accused of abuse. That verdict of $677 million sent shock waves through the nursing home industry and riled tort reformers who used the large amount as "proof" of litigation abuse.

Cindy Cool is the 58-year-old daughter of a nursing home resident who suffered needlessly at the hands of the short-staffed Eureka Healthcare and Rehabilitation nursing home. She is also part of a class-action lawsuit of 32,000 patients that blame for-profit nursing homes across the country for poor patient care. In court testimony, Cool described how her Alzheimer’s-suffering father was forced to sit in his own urine-soaked clothes for hours at a time while waiting for nursing home staff to assist him. At times, it would take over 20 minutes for the staff to respond.

Nursing home abuse complaints have steadily risen over the past ten years. Victims of nursing home abuse and their families link the decline in quality care to the Wall Street buying spree of nursing homes in the early part of the century. They argue that instead of worrying about providing quality care for patients, nursing homes are focused on sticking to the bottom line and cutting staff people is an easy method to accomplish this goal. In fact, the nursing home where Cool’s father lived is owned by Skilled Healthcare Group, Inc., which is traded on the New York Stock Exchange.

On July 6, the Humboldt County jury found Skilled Healthcare Group, Inc. violated state regulations on numerous occasions which required it to keep a minimum number of nurses on staff. Skilled Healthcare CEO Boyd Hendrickson decried the jury’s decision and vowed to challenge the verdict. The company’s options seem to be shrinking, however, as the presiding judge already shot down one of the company’s challenges for a mistrial based on juror misconduct. Meanwhile, the company’s ability to appeal is also in question since company’s are usually required to post 150% of the verdict as bond. Currently, the company doesn’t have the cash or credit to post and likely faces bankruptcy if the verdict stands up. Nevertheless, California nursing staff minimums are actually lower than the national minimums–California requires 3.2 nursing hours per patient per day while federal requirements are much more stringent and require 4.1 hours–making it much easier for Skilled Healthcare to meet these standards when compared to other nursing homes. Pat McGinnis, the executive director and founder of California Advocates for Nursing Home Reform, recently pointed out that nursing staff shortages are a major problem in California.

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  1. Deb Calvert says:
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    The CEO of Sun Healthcare Group Inc, Rick Matros, threatened me in mediation I wasn’t getting his Bentley and would be harmed if I pursued my wrongful death lawsuit for my mother, Evelyn Calvert, to a jury trial like this was I’d be harmed. Sun Healthcare and Matros should be investigated for criminal activity. I sued my attorney malpractice and he died, I won that lawsuit in 2008.

    My mother lived in Sunbridge Newport from August 2002 through December 2003, which included numerous trips to acute care hospitals for treatment SUN was negligent for. Her condition gradually declined after repeated urinary tract infections, fevers, respiratory infections, pneumonia, strokes, as well as MRSA. Most of which were caused from Sun’s lack of staffing, broken equipment and simple neglect. In March, 2003, while sitting alone in her wheelchair in the Dining Room without staff present, she fell head first onto the floor, as witnessed by other residents. Her CNA, Rey Esteban, found her when he walked out of the lunch room hearing a loud thud. She suffered a hematoma on her forehead that the facility failed to report to the Dept of Health. She had been admitted the prior August, 2002 as a high risk for falls, yet didn’t have a lap buddy nor anyone watching her. Even with double pneumonia Sun forced Evelyn Calvert up and dressed by 5:30am, I found out on a surprise visit, as she was then to be made to sit in the hallway to wait hrs for the dining room doors to open, because Sun understaffed and simply put, 5-7 CNAs that arrive at 7am cannot dress 59 patients in one hour. I informed Sun’s Medical Director who interceded stating no sick patients were ever to be awakened to sit up at 5:30am for breakfast. Commonplace: Thirsty? Back in an hour; Need bathroom? Sorry there is no help to walk you to the bathroom so we use diapers here; Hungry? great food; You need a Dr? We’re short on staff again, let’s call 911 and transfer you to the local acute care hospital; Fever? Sorry our thermometers broke (documented by DHS) Hot? Our HVAC was condemned by State; Cold? HVAC broke; Can’t breathe? No Ventilation? Did I mention the HVAC is condemned? By the way our oxygen tank ran out -not enough staff to monitor oxygen tanks; Looks like you had a stroke! OH, our b/p monitors broke, sorry you’ll never swallow again; AND now you contracted MRSA from us? So sorry to tell you this but now you will die. Sure enough seven months later our mom was dead from this callous behavior. She spent the majority of her final months in an acute care hospital, suffering horribly.

    Patients who also died were Richard Laga, from gangrene after the Admin Susan Zanca refused to hire a wound care nurse; Betty Harness from fecal impaction because they didn’t staff enough to tract bowel movements; Man Rm 2B Oct 2003 when suction equipment broke and back up equip also broke and Stella Carter when her physician’s orders for “stat” weren’t followed.

    Sun would have been “sunk” in a similiar lawsuit had my former late corrupt attorney Daniel Leipold not conspired with Matros to defraud me.

    C O R R U P T I O N

  2. Deborah Calvert says:
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    To read evidence and witness names go to sunhealthcaregroupinc.blogspot.com