Attorneys have filed several recent lawsuits alleging that California nursing homes are not meeting state staffing requirements, California Watch reports.
Skilled Healthcare Case
In July 2010, a Humboldt County jury imposed a $671 million verdict after finding that nursing home chain Skilled Healthcare had failed to meet state staffing requirements.
After the verdict, attorneys from both sides negotiated an agreement calling for Skilled Healthcare to pay $50 million to settle the claims and avoid bankruptcy. Skilled Healthcare admitted no wrongdoing in the case.
Several attorneys involved in the case against Skilled Healthcare now are bringing similar complaints against other nursing homes over alleged understaffing.
Kathryn Stebner -- a San Francisco attorney who is working on the new cases -- said lawyers have used state data to identify nursing home chains and facilities that provide inadequate staffing levels.
The new cases include:
- Hazel Walsh v. Kindred Healthcare, filed Nov. 23, 2010 in San Francisco on behalf of a resident at San Francisco's Golden Gate Healthcare Center;
- Phyllis Wehlage v. Evergreen California Healthcare, filed Nov. 15, 2010 in Sonoma County on behalf of a resident at Evergreen Lakeport Healthcare in Lake County;
- Valentine v. Thekkek Health Services, filed Nov. 12, 2010 in Alameda County on behalf of a resident at Gateway Care and Rehabilitation in Hayward; and
- Maria Hernandez v. Beverly Healthcare California, filed Nov. 10, 2010 in San Francisco on behalf of two residents at Golden LivingCenter facilities in Bakersfield and Petaluma.
Another lawsuit working its way through the courts targets understaffing at nursing home chain Covenant Care. The case was filed in April 2010 in Sacramento County on behalf of a resident at Emerald Gardens Nursing Center in Sacramento.
Health Facilities Weigh In
Mark Reagan, an attorney who represents the California Association of Health Facilities, said he does not expect any of the new complaints to lead to jury awards of the magnitude seen in Humboldt County.
Reagan has disputed whether state law guarantees nursing home residents a right to certain staffing standards. He also has suggested that the authority to enforce staffing requirements belongs to the state Department of Public Health, not the courts (Jewett, California Watch, 1/10).