Janssen Law Firm partners Michael J. Crowley and W. Timothy Needham have been recognized by California Lawyer Magazine as California Lawyer attorneys of the year, recognizing their significant trial result in the Lavender v. Skilled Healthcare nursing home understaffing class-action case. This case was tried to verdict in Humboldt County Superior Court after a six month trial, and resulted in a $677 million verdict against Skilled Healthcare for statutory violations of the state’s minimum nurse staffing requirements. This is believed to the largest jury verdict in the nursing home context in the state’s history, and was among the top jury verdicts in the United States for 2010, in any field.
Mr. Crowley and Mr. Needham’s co-counsel in the case, Christopher J. Healey of the Luce Forward Firm in San Diego and sole practitioner Michael Thamer out of Callahan, were similarly recognized as California Lawyers of the Year for their work as part of the lead trial team in the Skilled Healthcare trial. The jury in the Skilled Healthcare case found that the chain was responsible for 1.2 million violations of the state’s minimum staffing law, and determined that the maximum damage amount of $500 per violation should be assessed as to each facility, for each patient, on days of violation during the six year period of the class-action.
In addition to the significant amount of damages found by the jury, the jury found the “predicate findings” for punitive damages, but the corporate defendants agreed to pay $50 million in a cash settlement and $12.8 million to cover the cost of court ordered injunction compliance with the State’s minimum nurse staffing requirements.
The Janssen Law Firm is known for having specific expertise in elder abuse actions, both on an individual level regarding neglect, abuse and wrongful death cases as well as the innovative handling of the Skilled case in a class format. The result of the Skilled Healthcare verdict has changed the landscape in the healthcare field and sent a strong message to the industry that “the business model of understaffing to jack up profits will simply not be tolerated.”
Janssen Law Firm partner Patrik Griego is a prior recipient of the California Lawyer of the Year award for his work on another class-action matter, involving wage and hour violations for agricultural workers. Mr. Griego made significant contributions in the Skilled case in trial preparation and in presentation of witnesses. Janssen Law Firm attorney Amelia F. Burroughs also made significant contributions both leading up to and during the trial of the Skilled case. The Janssen Law Firm is proud of all the lawyers from the firm who contributed to the success of the case, as well as the firm’s entire staff and other lawyers and partners who worked so hard to conduct the firm’s other business while Mr. Crowley and Mr. Needham were embroiled in the six and half month long jury trial. It truly was a team effort.