California Team Secures Unanimous Defense Verdict in High Exposure Elder Abuse and Neglect Case
Los Angeles, Cali. (April 17, 2019) – A California trial team led by Los Angeles Partner George E. Nowotny and Sacramento Partner Kim M. Wells recently secured a unanimous defense verdict for our client, Vohra Wound Physicians of California, PC, which provides consultant medical services to residents in skilled nursing facilities, in a multi-million dollar elder neglect and physical abuse case which was heard in Sacramento County Superior Court. The matter involved an 88-year old woman who incurred an ankle fracture, subsequently sustaining several pressure wounds to her left leg, and ultimately requiring a below-the-knee amputation.
The plaintiff argued that the alleged neglect and abuse resulted in her total disability. She also alleged that our client had performed unnecessary procedures on her in order to defraud Medicare and increase their profits all at the plaintiff’s expense. The plaintiff’s counsel, a high-profile California elder law attorney, sought past and future medical expenses in excess of $2.6 million dollars, as well as “significant” general damages. The plaintiff made a pre-trial demand of $13 million. Our client refused to consent to any settlement.
A key aspect of the case turned on the definition of “caretaker” and “custodial care” as set forth in California’s Elder and Dependent Adult Civil Protection Act (EADACPA), and particularly its application to physicians and medical practice groups. At trial, we argued that in addition to a lack of causation, the provider and its physicians were not in a substantial caretaking or custodial relationship with plaintiff that involved ongoing responsibility for provision of basic needs. After a 10-week trial and two and a half days of deliberation, the jury returned a unanimous 12-0 verdict in favor of our client on both the elder abuse claim and the “caretaker”/“custodial care” aspect of the elder neglect claim.
“This case involved an essential element of the Elder Abuse Act,” said Mr. Nowotny. “This is a very important result not just for our client, but for the entire California medical community in the ongoing effort to prevent the overreaching application of this law and its enhanced remedies in cases that, at best, may only be questionable medical negligence matters.”
Mr. Nowotny and Ms. Wells were assisted by Sacramento Associate Christopher Choi. This is the third defense verdict secured by or with the assistance of the Sacramento trial team in recent months.