Evelyn K. v. Beverly Health and Rehabilitation Services
Kern County Superior Court. In this groundbreaking case, partner Tom Beach represented the defendants in defense of a skilled nursing facility in the first “elder abuse” case tried in the State of California following the enactment of California’s Elder Abuse and Dependent Adult Civil Protection Act. The trial, which resulted in a directed verdict in favor of the defendants on the plaintiffs’ Elder Abuse and Dependent Adult claim, was the first civil trial in California where jurors were instructed on the elements and burdens of proof for elder abuse. Plaintiffs claimed wrongful death and personal injuries resulting from excessive use of psychotropic medications and restraints.
Shaw v. Doe NeuroRehab Hospital
San Diego County Superior Court. In this high-profile case, plaintiffs sought enhanced remedies under California’s Dependent Adult Civil Protection Act (EADACPA) based upon the rape of a mentally disabled 24-year-old woman. Beach | Whitman | Cowdrey lawyers represented the defendant hospital. The accused perpetrator had confessed to law enforcement authorities. In a dramatic jury trial, the jury concluded that the defendant hospital was guilty of “neglect” but found in favor of the defendant on the question of causation. The court entered judgment in favor of the defendant on all claims. Plaintiffs’ appeal was abandoned.
Settles v. Regency Health Care Services
Los Angeles County Superior Court. This high-profile case featured claims of elder abuse and neglect against a skilled nursing facility. Plaintiffs were represented by leading California plaintiffs’ advocate Russell Balisok. This was the first case tried in California following the landmark Supreme Court decision of Delaney v. Baker and the trial judge gave jury instructions delineating all of the elements of reckless neglect and abuse under the Supreme Court guidelines. In an unusual verdict, the jury found in favor of the plaintiffs on the claims of willful misconduct and negligence. However, the jury apportioned 65% of fault to a non-party physician and found in favor of the defendants on the question of punitive damages. The trial court reduced the judgment to conform to MICRA and further reduced the MICRA cap by 65% and denied the plaintiffs’ claim for attorneys’ fees and costs as the defendant was the prevailing party.
Lesperance v. Beverly Health and Rehabilitation Services
Orange County Superior Court. In this groundbreaking case, the trial court dealt with the issue of elder abuse neglect “per se” as a matter of first impression. Plaintiffs argued that the doctrine of “negligence per se” applied to violations of state and federal regulations governing skilled nursing facilities participating in the Medicare and Medicaid reimbursement program. The trial court denied the plaintiffs’ request, and the jury found in favor of the defendants. In an unpublished decision, the California Court of Appeal upheld the defendants’ argument that the doctrine of “neglect per se” did not apply under California law and upheld the verdict in favor of defendants.
Gibbons v. Beverly Enterprises
Kings County Superior Court (Washington). In this case, firm partner Tom Beach tried the first case ever tried in the State of Washington under the new Medical Providers Elder Abuse Civil Liability Act. The case involved allegations of skilled nursing facility abuse and neglect of a patient resulting in death due to sepsis following a stroke, pulmonary embolus and diabetic ulceration.
Lawson v. Skyline Hospital Healthcare Center
Los Angeles County Superior Court. This case tried by firm lawyers Melinda Belew Owen and Tom Beach involved severe burn injuries suffered by an AIDS patient while smoking cigarettes on a patio near his subacute unit. In a case of first impression, the defendants argued that the plaintiff was barred from recovery by the California doctrine of Reasonable Implied Assumption of the Risk. The trial judge instructed the jury on the elements of the defense, and jurors found that the plaintiff had voluntarily assumed the risk of harm associated with the dangers of smoking cigarettes. The Court of Appeal reversed the trial court decision in an unpublished decision.
Harney v. Patient Care Plus
Orange County Superior Court. Plaintiffs sought wrongful death and elder abuse damages against a residential care facility for the elderly. Plaintiffs claimed that the patient/resident died from the facility’s failure to monitor medications and to diagnose a hip fracture resulting from an unwitnessed fall. Beach | Whitman | Cowdrey lawyers represented the defendant RCFE. In a case of first impression, the defendants argued successfully for the application of the damages cap under Civil Code § 3333.2 (MICRA). This was the first case to distinguish the Court of Appeal’s decision in Kotler v. Alma Lodge where the court held that RCFE’s were not entitled to the protections of MICRA. The trial court found that the defendant satisfied the factors articulated in Coe v. Superior Court (220 Cal.App.3d 48) and despite their licensure as an RCFE, the defendant was still entitled to the protections of MICRA.
Sulzman v. Vista Del Mar Hospital
San Diego Superior Court. This tragic case against a psychiatric hospital and psychiatrist was featured in a made-for-television movie. The plaintiffs were the surviving heirs and family members of five murder victims. The victims were the parents, grandparents and sister of a patient under the care of the defendant psychiatrist and hospital. The 15-year-old patient was allowed to leave the hospital upon the psychiatrist’s permission and order to spend the weekend with his family at the grandparents’ 50th wedding anniversary. The 15-year-old psychiatric patient murdered the five members of his immediate family and then fled to Las Vegas.
The surviving heirs and family members sued the psychiatrist and hospital on a Tarrasoff v. Regents “failure to warn” theory. Beach | Whitman | Cowdrey lawyers represented the defendants in the trial of the special defense under Civil Code § 43.92, the psychotherapists immunity from liability for failure to warn of violent behavior. Judgment was entered in favor of the defendants. The Court of Appeal upheld the trial court decision, and the California Supreme Court declined review.
Kurrus v. Covenant Care
Plaintiff claimed that a skilled nursing facility recklessly subjected her to injury by failing to report significant changes in her condition to the treating physicians. According to plaintiff, this prevented treating physicians from identifying a malfunctioning shunt placed to mitigate fluid build up on the brain (hydrocephalus), and consequential brain injury. Defendant claimed that the disorientation, confusion, and cognitive deficits referred to by plaintiff as “changed conditions” were actually well known at the time of the plaintiff’s admission to the facility. In addition, she had been aggressively evaluated by her treating physicians to rule out the possibility that the shunt was not functioning a jury trial of the Elder abuse, Fraud, Wilful Misconduct, Intentional Infliction of Emotional Distress and Professional Negligence causes of action resulted in a defense verdict for the skilled nursing facility on all counts.
Inclan v. Covenant Care, Inc.
Los Angeles County Superior Court. In what the Los Angeles Daily Journal designated as one of the Top 10 Defense Verdicts for 2006, partners Tom Beach and Sean Cowdrey obtained a defense verdict for a hospice company, a skilled nursing facility, and several nurses. The plaintiffs contended that the hospice conspired with the skilled nursing facility to withhold essential care, treatment, and medical services from decedent in order to maximize revenues from Medicare. Decedent developed multiple Stage III and IV decubitus ulcers, contractures, lost over 50 pounds, and suffered from severe malnutrition and dehydration. Mr. Beach and Mr. Cowdrey convinced the jury that these conditions were all unavoidable and the natural course of the decedent’s terminal illness. The trial was significant because the case was the subject of the 2004 California Supreme Court decision in Covenant Care, Inc. v. Superior Court (2004) 32 Cal.4th 771, where the court effectively stripped healthcare providers of all procedural protections on punitive damages in cases involving claims of elder abuse.