$27 million awarded against assisted-living facility for negligence in care of Alzheimer's patient. Sacramento County.
Alzheimer's patient, 81, suffers a severe decline in her physical health after only three months in assisted-living facility. Jury awards $27 million, mostly punitive damages.
- Case Name: Joan Boice, et al v. Emeritus Corporation
- Court and Case Number: Sacramento Superior Court/ 34-2009-00063714
- Date of Verdict or Judgment: Thursday, March 07, 2013
- Date Action was Filed: Wednesday, November 11, 2009
- Type of Action: Elder Abuse, Wrongful Death
- Judge or Arbitrator(s): Hon. Judy Holzer Hersher
- Plaintiffs: Joan Boice, Eric Boice, Mark Boice, Nancee Boice (Joan and Myron's adult children)
- Defendants: Emeritus Corporation
- Type of Result: Jury Verdict
- Gross Verdict or Award: $27,088,943.81
- Economic Damages:
- Non-Economic Damages:
Pain and suffering: $3,875,000
Wrongful death: $250,000
- Punitive Damages:
Note: It was noted by plaintiffs' counsel that the actual verdict amount of $27,088,943.81 was provided by the jurors as a message to the defendant company. Joan Boice was 81 years old when she died, and the jury is said to have wanted to commemorate her in the verdict figure.
- Trial or Arbitration Time: 33 days
- Jury Deliberation Time: 2 days for phase 1 - compensatory and special findings; 4 hours for punitive damages.
- Jury Polls: 12/0 on all findings except damages, compensatory 10-2 on wrongful death; 11-1 on pain and suffering; 10-2 on punitive damages. The "no" votes all wanted to award more money.
- Post Trial Motions & Post-Verdict Settlements: Pending
- Attorney for the Plaintiff: Clement & Associates by Lesley Ann Clement, Sacramento.
- Attorney for the Defendant: Lewis Brisbois by Bryan Reid, Rima Badiwiya, and Kim Wells.
- Plaintiff’s Medical Experts: Kathryn Locatell, M.D., geriatrics and internal medicine, Placerville
- Defendant's Medical Experts: John Fullerton, M.D., geriatrics and palliative care, San RafaelMary Ann Ransbury, R.N., wound care, San BernardinoRichard Tindall, M.D., neurology, San Bernardino
- Plaintiff's Technical Experts: Robert Johnson, MBA, economist (for punitive damages phase), Palo Alto
- Defendant's Technical Experts: John Grant, regulatory expert (DSS licensing), Seal BeachJames Moore, MBA, assisted living facility expert, Fort Worth, TX
Facts and Background
- Facts and Background:
Joan Boice and her husband Myron Boice, moved into Emeritus Assisted Living Facility in Auburn, CA, on September 12, 2008, from another assisted living facility. She walked into Emeritus with her walker. She left Emeritus on December 4, 2008 with multiple full-thickness pressure ulcers, contractures, and a 20-pound weight loss. Joan died on February 14, 2009.
(Myron Boice died shortly before complaint was filed.)
- Plaintiff's Contentions:
That Joan Boice had received excellent care at her prior assisted living facility, but was neglected at Emeritus because of a corporate scheme to understaff its facilities, while marketing to elders and their families that Emeritus was the leader in assisted living and dementia care, and that its staff was highly trained and provided its residents with an activities-focused program.
None of the staff had the state-mandated training or the training set forth in Emeritus's own policies, nor did the staff meet the qualifications set forth in Emeritus's own written job descriptions.
The staff did not have the time or the training to protect Joan Boice from health and safety hazards, including assisting her with ambulation in her walker or providing her with activities. She declined rapidly due to severe understaffing, that included multiple nights with no staff to oversee the care of 17 dementia residents in the Memory Care Unit where Joan Boice lived and only 2 staff members for nearly 80 elders across a three-story building.
There were few if any activities for the residents, and the staff was not trained nor had the time to assist residents with their activities of daily living, like eating, walking, and bathing.
That Emeritus violated state safety regulations and laws. That Emeritus violated their own policies and procedures. That Emeritus corporate officers, directors and managing agents, directed, authorized and ratified, the malicious, oppressive and fraudulent conduct that resulted in Joan Boice's neglect and death. That Emeritus's neglect was a substantial contributing factor in Joan Boice's death. The pressure ulcers she developed were treated by unlicensed staff for nearly two months before any notice was given to the physician or the family.
- Defendant's Contentions:
That Emeritus acted at all times within the law and the standard of care. That care met state standards, but there were some documentation issues with the care. Joan Boice died as a result of a mixed dementia caused by strokes, coupled with her Alzheimer's disease, that caused spontaneous pressure ulcers and no amount of care would have prevented her death or a negative outcome.
Injuries and Other Damages
- Physical Injuries claimed by Plaintiff:
Joan Boice lost 20 pounds in 3 months, developed contractures, lost her ability to walk, and developed multiple full-thickness pressure ulcers and died two months after leaving Emeritus as a result of these injuries.