After filing a wrongful death lawsuit against the company, the family of an 82-year-old woman who died as a result of bed sores and other injuries she suffered during her stay at a Seattle-based assisted living facility was recently awarded a verdict of more than $23 million as a result of the company’s negligence. $500,000 of the verdict was related to compensatory damages, while the remaining $23 million was punitive.
Wrongful Death Results from Negligent Care
Court documents indicate that 82-year-old Joan Boice had been placed in the care of Emeritus at Emerald Hills, an assisted living facility in Auburn, Calif. in 2008 after she was diagnosed with Alzheimer’s disease. Emeritus Corp. is a giant corporation that operates hundreds of assisted living communities in 36 states and sees profits estimated at $4 million per day.
According to multiple reports about the case, when Boice checked out of the nursing home she had been diagnosed with at least four severe bed sores. She died just three months after she checked out of Emeritus at Emerald Hills and the bed sores were listed as significant contributing factors.
Soon after Boice died, Emeritus offered the family a $3.5 million settlement in exchange for dropping the wrongful death lawsuit. The family declined the offer and decided to take the wrongful death action to trial.
A Sacramento Superior Court Jury found the assisted living company was guilty of wrongful death, elder abuse and fraud, among others. The guilty verdict meant all that remained was for the jury to decide the level of financial compensation that was appropriate for the family in Boice’s wrongful death.
Punitive Damages in California
Although Emeritus Corp. is a Seattle-based organization, Boice’s death was attributed to the subpar care she received at the assisted living facility. This proved to be an important detail in the case because it allowed the family to bring a wrongful death action in California, which allows punitive damages in wrongful death cases.
The jury later slammed Emeritus with a verdict of $500,000 in compensatory damages and $23 million in punitive damages to be paid to the Boice family.
“Emeritus is extremely disappointed with the outcome of this trial and does not believe it is a fair reflection of the care that was provided to this resident in 2008,” reads a statement from Grager Cobb, president and CEO of Emeritus.
Despite Cobb’s firm stance that the company provided Boice with an adequate level of care, the jury also found Emeritus to be guilty of engaging in fraud in relation to this case. There are little details about the fraud charges, but one could reasonably assume that it would be related to efforts to cover up the company’s negligence.