Emeritus Nursing Home Lawsuit Results in $23M Punitive Damage Award

  • Written by: Irvin Jackson

A California jury has awarded $23 million in punitive damages against Emeritus Corp., a nationwide chain of assisted living facilities, following a wrongful death lawsuit brought by the family of woman who died in one of the company’s facilities. 

The verdict was handed down in Sacramento Superior Court last Friday, following trial of a nursing home neglect lawsuit brought by the children of Joan Boice. The jury had already found that Emeritus was guilty of fraud, malice and oppression before granting the massive punitive damage award, which is designed to punish the company for gross negligence.

Boice, 82, was admitted to Emeritus at Emerald Hills in September 2008, where she allegedly developed bedsores after less than four months. She died in 2009, three months after the family removed her.

During the trial, the family’s attorneys presented evidence that suggested employees covered up the bedsores so that she wouldn’t be removed from the facility, presumably so that the nursing home could continue to collect money for her being there.

Bedsores develop on the skin when an area is repeatedly rubbed or something is pressed against the skin for a long period of time. The pressure reduces the blood flow in the area, which can result in skin deterioration and an ulcer can form.

These pressure sores typically occur in bony areas of the body, such as the elbows, hips, shoulders, heels, back and the back of the head. Early symptoms may include red skin that worsens over time. The area can also develop a blister which turns into an open sore.

The lawsuit also accused the company of understaffing the nursing home and failing to provide sufficient training.

According to a local media report by The Sacramento Bee, jurors indicated following the trial that they were shocked and stunned by evidence presented, and wanted to send the company and the industry a message. In addition to evidence of poor care, they found particularly disturbing information presented during the punitive damages phase that the company failed to properly staff its facilities while it hadn’t paid federal income taxes in three years, even though it generated more than $1.5 billion in revenue last year.

During the trial, the defense team for Emeritus admitted that there were problems with management of the facility at the time, as well as staffing, training and care issues. Emeritus has indicated that it will appeal the decision, suggesting that the jury’s award did not fit with how the facility treated Boice. Emeritus is the nation’s largest assisted living facility company.

The family won the case after rejecting an offer by the company to settle for only $3.2 million.

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  1. Allan Reply

    Why in the world are they allowed to remain in business????

  2. john Reply

    I work at emeritus in catalina foothills in Tucson az. I am being let go because I reported theft by management.iwas told by Kelly the southwest director to mind my own business.I I beleave in honesty and god they do not.they are only concern about money and them selves.

  3. Keith Reply

    I worked for this company in Marietta Ohio. it was the most fraudulent and crooked company i ever worked for. they made the nurses clock out for lunches, but they made us continue to work on our lunch break off the clock. we were also harassed and bullied and threatened and when i called the “hot line” which was supposed to be confidetial i was terminated.

  4. Anne Reply

    Lakeland Hills Senior Living owened by Emeritus corporation Seattle WA

    This facility restricts attition to services. Air condition set to only cool a certiam amount below outside temp. At temp of 105 during the summer inside temp would only go to high 80’s. water temp is also controlled, I have about 10 min of hot water in the shower. Bugs under the kitchen and bathroom sinks. Denied access to back deck which is set up for wheelchair, I have a recent stroke and TIA and walking on a slant causes me to lose my balance. admin nic johnson told me I was not handicapped and shoud walk down and lift my trash over the fence. Fire Dept. ordered smoke alarms put in both bed rooms. Appt handyman contacted to arrange appt to install. He did not come but i found out from him that current alarm was not hard wired, I took it down and pushed the button to show if it was working, it was not. I went over to see about getting a new battery. nic johnson and his assistant manager, they told me they did not have acess to batteries and they were about to leave for the day. I am very fearful ov fire so drove to a nearby convenience store for a battery. When I mentioned this to him and he said he had not left, had stayed until 7pm, but he never obtained a battery for me. A review of complaints at the location of the corporate mimics what i have experienced here including a woman falling into a lake and drowning. A 23 million dollar suit re poor care.I could go on and on about my time here, I have a few thousand dollers to improve my comfort here.

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