Finding a Safe Place for Mom and Dad
By: Dennis Beaver as published in The Sentinel 3-12-16.
The day we discover that our parents are no longer able to care for themselves brings with it one of the greatest challenges in our lives as adult children. Now, we have become parents of our parents, at times needing to protect them from themselves; and at all times from a world turned hostile.
Finding a safe place for mom and dad is one of the most frightening concerns which families across our country face every day. How do we find a care facility that delivers on the promises in its glossy brochure?
Just ask attorney Michael Crowley of the Eureka-based Janssen Malloy law firm. In 2010, as one of the lead trial counsels in the most significant class action of its kind in the United States against Skilled Health Care Group, he and his team would place before a jury examples of horror and mistreatment of defenseless elderly which could have come straight out of the Syfy channel — only it was all too real.
A $637 million verdict was returned against this giant corporation by a jury outraged by not just thousands of violations of law, but by the look and smell of someone’s mother, someone’s father, ignored for hours, dehydrated, malnourished and soaking in their own urine and fecal matter.
In a moment, we’ll share Crowley’s recommendations on how to find a good facility, but first, if mom or dad are in a bad one, he explains why it can be a death sentence.
“Their business structure was based on systemic under staffing of facilities and yet billing as if they had adequate numbers of personnel to care for residents. This violated California’s Patient’s Bill of Rights, and similar legislation on a federal level and in other states.
“The company was making millions of dollars of profit this way, the big cash cow being Medicare payment. As Rehabilitation Care brings in the largest dollar amount, they had an interest in making sure the facilities were full of patients with the most needs.
“By definition, the reason these people are in a skilled nursing facility is because they are a vulnerable population. Up to 70 percent cannot communicate effectively due to a stroke, Parkinson or, dementia. They are helpless; some are blind, some deaf, and all rely on the staff for everything.
“When you fill a facility with patients who have the greatest needs and are not delivering adequate care, truly horrible things happen,” Crowley tells You and Law, outlining what the lawsuit uncovered:
Residents were not turned or changed, were left in their own waste, in urine all night, leading to pressure ulcers, and bedsores so bad that infection resulted, sometimes leading to amputations and death.
Overly sedated, left in their own beds, there was no social interaction. Some were given food they could not chew or swallow and chocked. Severe dehydration and malnutrition was common. Many fell, winding up with a broken hip—which is a frequent death sentence for the elderly.
Do your homework
No one should ever think that what Crowley’s lawsuit uncovered with this large corporation was unique “It isn’t,” he is quick to underscore, adding, “This is a problem everywhere, placing a duty on family members to be diligent in their efforts to reduce the chances that mom or dad winds up in one of them.”
So, before signing a contract with an assisted living or skilled nursing care facility, you need to know if they have they been in trouble with the state or Medicare. Crowley explains how to find out:
“A great deal of information is available online, for example, Google DOPNA Orders and read about Medicare denying payment where evidence of neglect and substandard care is found.
“Additionally, you are legally allowed to find and read investigation reports conducted by the Department of Health Services. These reports must be in a binder, open to the public, so, I recommend always asking to see that binder. Also, ask to see their posted staffing schedule. However, as facilities in general do not want the customer to see these reports if they contain negative comments, you will need to be persistent. If they refuse, just leave.”
So, you do all of that and the place comes up clean with no evidence of action by the Feds or Health Department. But it may be far from “clean,” in fact, it could be a family’s nightmare, waiting to happen.
We all have a way to determine that—our senses of sight and smell, “Especially smell,” Crowley notes.
What to look at and sniff for, next time.
Dennis Beaver Practices law in Bakersfield and welcomes comments and questions from readers, which may be faxed to 661-323-7993, or emailed to Lagombeaver1@Gmail.com. Also, visit www.dennisbeaver.com
Janssen Malloy LLP's Megan Yarnall Obtains Settlement for Mother of Inmate Who Died in Custody in Cottage Grove, Oregon city jail
The city of Cottage Grove will pay $450,000 to settle a lawsuit filed by the mother of a 24-year-old man who died of pneumonia in the city jail three years ago.
Wendy Cooper endorsed the settlement agreement last week, bringing an end to litigation she filed in 2013 that accused the city and a number of police officers of denying proper medical care to her heroin-addicted son, Nathan Cooper, before he died of aspiration pneumonia while serving a jail sentence for possessing a single anti-anxiety pill, for which he did not have a prescription.
According to court records, $180,000 of settlement proceeds will pay Wendy Cooper’s attorneys for their work on the case, with an additional $36,611 going to cover court costs associated with the wrongful-death suit.
The remaining $233,389 will be deposited in an interest--bearing bank account that Wendy Cooper will not be -allowed to touch until after it’s decided in court how the money should be split among the beneficiaries, namely her and her son’s father, Troy Pratt.
Nathan -Cooper was not married and did not have any children, according to court records. His parents are not married.
Wendy Cooper’s lawyer, Megan Yarnall of Eureka, Calif., said this week that her client filed suit -primarily "to ensure that what happened to her son Nathan does not happen to anyone else."
"It goes without saying that no settlement offer or jury award will make Nathan or Ms. Cooper whole," Yarnall said. She added that her client hopes the city and its police department "will find that, in the future, the better course is to provide adequate care to inmates under their care and custody, in part by adequately staffing the (jail) and providing appropriate -training to the jail staff."
The settlement agreement does not include any provisions regarding policy changes at the jail, and Cottage Grove City Manager Richard Meyers said the city has not updated police department policies to address issues related to Cooper’s time in custody. Meyers declined comment on the agreement made to settle the lawsuit.
Local governments’ insurance carriers often make settlement payments on behalf of their clients in civil cases, although the source of Cooper’s compensation could not be confirmed on Friday.
Police Chief Mike Grover said previously that an internal investigation found that officers followed all department policies and procedures in dealing with Cooper during his time in jail.
Oregon State Police conducted a separate investigation and found no indication that Cooper had died as a result of a crime. A toxicology test -revealed no sign of illegal drugs in Cooper’s system at the time of his death, police said.
On April 26, 2012 — nine days before he died — Cooper was booked into the jail to begin serving a 10-day sentence for possession of a Xanax pill.
The very next day, he was released for medical treatment related to drug withdrawal symptoms, -police said.
Cooper was ordered to return to jail two days later to complete his sentence. When he did not, Cottage Grove police re-arrested him.
Wendy Cooper’s lawsuit alleged that her son still was showing severe withdrawal signs when he went back to jail to finish the sentence. Nathan Cooper was so sick that he was unable to leave his cell to appear in court on a charge of failing to return from the furlough.
As a result, a judge went to the jail cell, where the judge sentenced Nathan Cooper to additional time behind bars, according to the suit.
While police said officers had monitored Cooper during his time in custody, his mother’s lawsuit claimed that he was not given any kind of medical evaluation and that he experienced uncontrolled vomiting and other symptoms before he was found dead in his cell on the morning of May 5, 2012.
The suit claimed that the city violated Cooper’s constitutional protections against cruel and unusual punishment. It also alleged his treatment violated the Oregon Constitution, and sought unspecified damages under state law for negligence and wrongful death.
Cooper "died alone in his cell from an illness that could have been readily diagnosed and treated by an examining physician," Yarnall said. "When jails take custody of people with addiction issues, they have a responsibility to treat them with dignity and ensure their civil rights, including the right to appropriate medical care, are not violated as a result of their incarceration."
Michael Crowley Speaks on Behalf of Kneeland Volunteer Fire Department
Eureka’s Janssen Malloy law firm directs $250,000 to College of the Redwoods for gerontology care program
Eureka’s Janssen Malloy LLP law firm recently received court approval to direct $250,000 to College of the Redwoods to integrate the most current thinking in senior, or gerontology, care into the curriculum and clinical courses for nursing and allied health college students and working health professionals.
CR’s Health Occupations Programs is benefiting from a successful class action lawsuit against Skilled Healthcare’s nursing homes in California. Michael Crowley and Tim Needham of Janssen Malloy were two of the four lead trial counsel in representing 42,000 residents, including those in Humboldt County, in a class action lawsuit against 22 Skilled Healthcare nursing homes in California, five located in Humboldt County. The original jury decision in the six-month trial resulted in a $677 million verdict against Skilled Healthcare. It was later settled post-trial for $62.8 million.
The settlement required that Skilled Healthcare comply with a court injunction requiring the company to meet legally mandated minimum staffing levels.
“Our law firm is proud to be directing funds to a geriatric nursing program at CR,” Crowley said. “Nursing staffing was the central issue of this lawsuit. There are few more important areas to direct this money than a college that trains our future nurses.”
“By allowing us to share in the settlement award, Janssen Malloy LLP have provided an opportunity to ensure that our local graduates will be prepared to meet the health care needs of an aging community in a holistic way,” said CR Dean of Health and Emergency Response Occupations Dr. Pat Girczyc. She added that CR now educates about 75 percent of the registered nurses and the majority of the licensed vocational nurses who work in Humboldt County. “We will create gerontology faculty development programs; update the curricula; and work to meet the continuing education needs for those involved with seniors,” she said.
Girczyc added that the gerontology curriculum and teaching modules will be distributed throughout the California Community College system. That means that the positive impact of the Skilled Healthcare recovery will spread far beyond the borders of Humboldt County, she added.
The attorneys for the plaintiffs in the class action suit argued that the nursing homes did not employ the minimum staffing of an adequate number of qualified health care personnel to properly take care of the nursing homes’ residents. Crowley and Needham initiated the class action lawsuit against Skilled Healthcare after handling a number of elder abuse/wrongful death actions brought against Skilled Healthcare in Humboldt County.
Crowley, Needham, and their law partners Patrik Griego and Amelia Burroughs, were among the team of lawyers involved in the case who were selected for the 2011 Trial Lawyers of the Year Award by Public Justice, a national public interest law firm.
Janssen Directs $300,000 to Hospice of HumboldtEUREKA –As part of the settlement of a class action case brought on behalf of some 32,000 residents of understaffed skilled nursing facilities, including those in Humboldt County, the parties agreed to the disbursement of $300,000 of settlement funds to Hospice of Humboldt. Read the entire press release from Hospice of Humboldt
Teenager Struck by Vehicle While Using CrosswalkJanssen Malloy LLP is representing a teenager who was struck by a vehicle last week while in a crosswalk at the intersection of Fifth and E in Eureka.
Read the article from the Times-Standard.
Evergreen Healthcare Lawsuit Heads to MediationLast November, a case on behalf of Phyllis Wehlage, a resident of Evergreen Lakeport Healthcare, was filed against Evergreen California Healthcare and associated entities, including EmpRes Healthcare. Ms. Wehlage, who stayed at Evergreen Lakeport Healthcare in 2008, allegedly suffered "indignities and other harms" due to inadequate nurse staffing levels. The case initially was filed in Sonoma County Superior Court and earlier this year the case was moved to the federal court's jurisdiction. In June federal court Judge Claudia Wilken ruled against EmpRes' and Evergreen's motion to have Wehlage's suit dismissed, clearing the way for the suit to become class action. Earlier this month, following additional filings in the case, attorneys for EmpRes Healthcare filed a notice of mediation, which is supposed to commence in the case on Oct. 24.
Read the article from the Lake County News.
2011 Attorney of the Year Award WinnersPublic Justice Foundation has announced the winners for their 2011 Trial Lawyer of the Year Award. W. Timothy Needham, Michael J. Crowley, Patrik Griego and Amelia F. Burroughs of Janssen Malloy LLP have all been awarded the 2011 Attorney of the Year Award for their work in Lavender v. Skilled Healthcare Group, Inc.
News Release - 2011 Trial Lawyer of the Year Award.pdf
Public Justice Foundation has announced the winners for their 2011 Trial Lawyer of the Year Award. W. Timothy Needham, Michael J. Crowley, Patrik Griego and Amelia F. Burroughs of Janssen Malloy LLP have all been awarded the 2011 Attorney of the Year Award for their work in Lavender v. Skilled Healthcare Group, Inc.
News Release - 2011 Trial Lawyer of the Year Award.pdf
That’s the day a Humboldt County, California, jury returned a $677 million verdict against one of the nation’s largest nursing home chains, Skilled Healthcare, for violations of California’s Health and Safety Code at 22 of its facilities in the state.