A Hayward Nursing Home must pay nearly $20 million in damages and court costs after a jury found it responsible for the deaths of some residents and significant neglect of others.
At the end of a four-month trial, an Alameda County jury found Thursday that Parkview Healthcare Center had “fraudulently committed a commission of neglect,” according to Susan Kang Gordon, one of 10 plaintiffs’ attorneys — nursing home residents and deceased patients. family—who were awarded $9.6 million in punitive damages by the center and its parent company, Mariner Healthcare. Other lawyers were Jennifer Fiore and Jodie Moore.
Kang Gordon said that earlier in court proceedings, the jury awarded the plaintiffs $3.9 million in compensatory damages for “pre-death pain and suffering” as well as all attorneys’ costs and fees.
“I think it sends a strong message,” she said.
Dan Kramer, a spokesman for Mariner Health, said the companies are reviewing their options, which include drawing conclusions about punitive damages and one of the more unusual elements of this case: ten plaintiffs in a lawsuit with unrelated claims. Court’s decision to add.” Care. “As today’s ruling demonstrates, this decision had a major impact on jurors that seriously prejudiced the companies.”
The trial’s detailed problems began well before the COVID-19-ravaged nursing home, but were intensified by the pandemic, as this news organization documented last year.
According to trials and interviews with patients’ families, the problems were rooted in persistent staffing shortages.
Patients were left without proper wound care or bathing due to lack of proper staff. According to the patients’ families, linens, towels and diapers were constantly in short supply, leaving residents to sit in the mess.
According to the lawsuit, in 2018, at least four patients were sexually or physically assaulted by another resident who was allowed to move freely around the facility. Patients kept shouting for help, sometimes for more than half an hour. One resident repeatedly pressed his call button next to the bed – but no one came.
Many patients at the facility suffered from scabies and outbreaks of head lice. Some people were injured when they were left unattended, such as a man who collapsed while trying to get into his wheelchair. The suit claims that the wheelchair brakes were not applied, and that he broke his hip and developed a respiratory infection as a result of the fall. He later died of several complications.
Another resident fell from a wheelchair in April 2019 while uninjured and suffered traumatic brain injuries, the lawsuit also claims. That’s when his family came to know that he had wounds on his leg and he had gangrene infection. According to the lawsuit, his leg had to be amputated, and he died in August 2019 due to complications from his poor care.
When COVID-19 hit, it exacerbated the facility’s problems. Family members reported not being able to confirm at the facility whether their loved ones had tested positive. From afar, they worried that a low-staffed facility would not be able to stop the virus from attacking.
Ultimately, 18 residents died of COVID-19, according to state health department records.
This spring, nearly a year after Parkview patients and family members filed their lawsuit, the state sued the nursing home’s parent company, Mariner Health Care Services, for “trading people for profits at every turn.” ” Accused of. That lawsuit is still pending.
According to the complaint filed by the California Department of Justice and district attorneys for Alameda, Marin, Santa Cruz, and Los Angeles counties, Mariner “stretched money needed for appropriate staffing”.
Those prosecutors allege that low staffing levels at Mariner’s nursing home resulted in inadequate care, leading to unnecessary leg amputations, bone ulcers, spread of infection, and unreported sexual and physical assault.
The lawsuit also accuses Mariner of illegally booting residents from its facilities without due process or proper discharge procedures in an attempt to free up beds for new Medicare patients, which Medi-Cal accuses of those people. bring in more money than According to the suit, Mariner also falsified information it provided to the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services to increase its rating.
In July 2020, state investigators from the Department of Occupational Safety and Health launched an investigation after the news organization reported that six Parkview patients had died of COVID-19 and that families were suing over staffing issues. .
Cal-OSHA fined Parkview Healthcare Center $67,500 for “serious” violations: The facility did not isolate patients with COVID-19 or suspect it to be quickly enough and did not ensure that staff wore masks Wore or knew how to properly don protective gear, according to investigators’ notes.
Wendy Hogley-Louis, a compliance officer at Cal-OSHA, wrote, the facility did not adequately train staff about infection prevention practices or provide access to any written procedures regarding infection control.
Mariner’s facilities in Northern California — in addition to Parkview — include Almaden Health and Rehabilitation Center and Skyline Healthcare Center in San Jose, Creekside Healthcare Center and Vale Healthcare Center in San Pablo, Driftwood Healthcare Center in Hayward and Santa Cruz, Pine Ridge Care Center in San Jose Huh. Raphael, Fremont Healthcare Center in Fremont, Hayward Hills Healthcare Center and Fruitvale Healthcare Center in Oakland. It also has about nine facilities in Southern California.
Fiore said the case highlights the danger of outdated understanding.
“Jurors did not tolerate the fraudulent methods by which (nursing home operators) were reporting staffing,” he said, adding that the nursing homes treated patients “as if everyone had just one bed for them.” Is.”