Our Cases

Over the past twenty years we have successfully prosecuted hundreds of elder abuse cases against Nursing Homes, Hospitals, and Assisted Living Facilities. What follows is an overview of a few of these cases, which you can read more about by clicking the case names.

Cases

Palmer v. Elderhearth

Dorothy Palmer, Lesley’s great-aunt, was physically abused in a residential care facility specializing in dementia care. The facility owner altered Dorothy’s records to make Dorothy appear combative, when she had been badly beaten by a facility employee with a record of abuse. Dorothy was placed outdoors to make it appear as if she had been mugged. Lesley successfully tried the case in Marin County and then pressed on and assisted the Department of Social Services in an action against the owner defendant. Ultimately, the owner’s license to operate a residential care facility was revoked for life and the owner could never have any financial interest in any residential care facility or day care center.

Roland v. Covenant Care, Inc.

George Roland was 83 years old when he underwent knee replacement surgery at the local hospital. After surgery, he entered a nursing home for a short stint of “rehab.”

The nursing home did not follow the orthopedist’s rehab instructions. Worse, Mr. Roland did not receive basic nursing care, such as being repositioned in bed to prevent bed sores, being given adequate drinking water, being taken to the bathroom, and being showered.

On the eleventh day of his stay at the nursing home, he was found to have seven bed sores. One of them became septic, putting him back in the hospital for thirty days, during which time he almost died. Although he survived, he has never walked again and requires 24-hour care at home.

Lesley and her team discovered that the nursing home was chronically understaffed. The staff were poorly trained and so overworked that they didn’t have time to care for patients properly. By litigating aggressively against the nursing home and its parent companies, Lesley was able to obtain a substantial settlement on behalf of Mr. Roland, which will compensate him for his suffering and ensure there are sufficient resources to pay for whatever care he may need in the future.

Alexander v. Evergreen Healthcare

Fern Alexander was a patient on the Alzheimer’s Unit of an Evergreen skilled nursing facility. In her four years there, she was assaulted by other patients five times and suffered four black eyes. The final assault left her with a ruptured eyeball. Instead of rushing her to the hospital, the nursing home staff left her in bed for eighteen days, apparently expecting the eyeball to heal itself.

When Mrs. Alexander was finally brought to the hospital, it was too late to save her eye. Worse, by then Mrs. Alexander had developed a host of other complications, which led to her death.

Lesley and her team discovered that the nursing home was chronically understaffed. Unbeknownst to patients’ families, the locked Alzheimer’s Unit was left with no nurse all night long. (It is little wonder the patients regularly assaulted each other). Lesley is nothing if not persistent: through dogged investigation and discovery, she was able to show that the nursing home’s understaffing was a deliberate policy designed to increase the profits funneled to the parent company. After some very favorable rulings from the court, the nursing home and its parent company settled for a substantial sum on the eve of trial.

Dilley v. Sutter/CHS Central and Dr. James Lett

Mrs. Dilley entered Sutter Roseville Medical Center after suffering a fall and a urinary tract infection. Staff at Sutter Roseville failed to reposition her in bed and failed to monitor her skin, causing a bone deep pressure ulcer (bed sore). When Mrs. Dilley was transferred to the Sutter Transitional Care Center, the bedsore grew and festered as a result of further neglect, until eventually it reached grapefruit size and required two years of painful treatment to heal.

At trial, Lesley presented overwhelming evidence of the nursing staff’s inexcusable neglect—including the fact that in her 96 days at the Transitional Care Center, Mrs. Dilley received only one shower. The jury reached a unanimous seven figure verdict and found the defendants guilty of fraud, malice and/or oppression.

O’Hara v. HCR Manor Care Inc.

Maxine O’Hara was an Alzheimer’s patient at Manor Care skilled nursing facility. Over the course of her four-month stay there, she fell several times and was physically attacked twice, suffering highly suspicious genital injuries, severe head trauma, and facial fractures. Although Manor Care had led Mrs. O’Hara’s family to believe that she would be closely supervised and given 1:1 attention as needed, the reality was far different. The few staff were so overburdened that they could not possibly supervise the entire wing of dementia patients; thus, they had not even observed the attacks on Mrs. O’Hara. They failed to give her required medications more than a hundred times in just four months. Mrs. O’Hara’s daughter often found her left in wet or soiled undergarments.

Lesley’s investigation showed that Manor Care’s neglect of Mrs. O’Hara was part of a pattern of short-staffing and shoddy practices. Lesley also discovered that Manor Care had admitted a patient with a known history of violence onto the Alzheimer’s unit—without increasing supervision or warning the families of other patients. Based on Lesley’s efforts, Manor Care settled on terms very favorable to Mrs. O’Hara and her family.

Love v. NAHC and Valley Skilled Nursing Facility

At the time Helen Love was admitted to Valley Skilled Nursing Facility for rehabilitation, she had several medical conditions which left her bed-bound. One evening, she was strangled and brutalized by a caregiver who was asked to clean her after she suffered a bout of diarrhea. The assault left her with a fractured neck and wrist and bruising on many different parts of her body. The nursing home’s own investigation revealed that the caregiver had become angry at being asked to clean several accidents in one day, and had held Mrs. Love down while strangling her, covering her mouth to prevent her from crying out.

The nursing home never called Mrs. Love’s son to tell him what had happened, nor did they take Mrs. Love to the hospital. When the son discovered his mother’s condition, he was shocked. He drove her to the hospital himself, where she was diagnosed with wrist and spinal fractures in addition to the bruises.

In the course of conducting discovery, Lesley learned that the nursing home had hired the caregiver without background checks and that he had been fired from his last position for threatening a patient. Moreover, this was not an isolated occurrence: the nursing home had a habit of failing to conduct adequate background checks on staff. After Lesley brought these facts to light, the nursing home offered Mrs. Love’s family a substantial settlement.

Delaney v. Baker

Lesley was co-counsel in this groundbreaking case that went all the way to the California Supreme Court. After a substantial jury verdict against a nursing home based on elder abuse, the nursing home appealed, contending that California’s Elder Abuse Act (with its special remedies to punish “reckless neglect” of elders) should not apply to nursing homes. Fortunately, both the Court of Appeal and the Supreme Court unanimously agreed that the Elder Abuse Act applies to all health care providers, ensuring that elders and their families have a means of enforcing their rights under the law to dignified, competent care.

Bretz v. Covenant Care, Inc.

As is the case with many people when they get to be 80 years old, Ben Bretz began to demonstrate diminished mental capacities and could no longer be cared for at home. His family placed him at Covenant Care, trusting that he would receive the care he needed. Instead, the facility over-medicated him with psychotropic drugs, failed to feed him properly and then falsified their records to cover it up, and allowed him to become dehydrated. Eventually, it was discovered that Mr. Bretz had mysteriously broken his femur, the strongest bone in the body, in three places. There was no documentation as to how, when, or where this happened. When he was finally taken to the hospital, he was so malnourished and dehydrated that the hospital was unable to perform surgery to properly fix his leg.

Lesley was able to show that Mr. Bretz’s injuries were a result of chronic understaffing: over-worked and under-paid employees who just didn’t have enough time to perform simple tasks to prevent malnourishment, dehydration, and fractures. While money cannot relieve the pain and loss of dignity Ben Bretz suffered, the large settlement brought the ramifications of understaffing and substandard training into terms administrators of such facilities can understand: money.