Emeritus (NYSE:ESC) has lawyered up as part of its battle to challenge a “guilty” verdict and $23 million judgment it received earlier this year from an elder abuse and wrongful death trial.
The Seattle-based senior living provider plans to challenge the “irrelevant and inflammatory evidence” admitted into the trial that led to an “unconstitutional and unsupported punitive damages verdict,” Emeritus said in a statement.
In March 2013, a California jury decided the nation’s largest assisted living provider was guilty of elder abuse, wrongful death, malice, oppression, and fraud in the case of Joan Boice, who died in 2008 at age 82 from pressure wounds she allegedly developed in an Emeritus-run assisted living community.
The guilty verdict was accompanied by a $23 million judgment, mostly in punitive damages awarded to the plaintiffs along with a $3.9 million award for pain and suffering that was later reduced to $250,000 in accordance with state limits.
The company recently engaged attorneys from top East Coast law firm Skadden, Arps, Slate, Meagher and Flom, reports the Seattle Times. Emeritus’ new legal team includes Clifford Sloan, a former law clerk for Supreme Court Justice John Paul Stevens with extensive appeals litigation experience.
“With respect to the Boice trial, the reason we so strongly defended this case is because we believe in our staff and the care we provided to Mrs. Boice,” said Karen Lucas, vice president of communications for Emeritus, in a statement provided to the Seattle Times and Senior Housing News. “We believe the plaintiff attorney’s approach—attacking the entire company during a huge transition period—clouded the issue.”
The verdict was “tainted” by the admission improper testimony and evidence, says Emeritus, and doesn’t reflect the quality of care that was provided to Boice until she was transferred to a nursing facility at the request of her family when the Emeritus community “could no longer meet her care needs.”
“The result of the trial reflects a continuing culture of suspect lawsuits filed by plaintiff attorneys who seek to undermine the value and commitment that senior-living companies like ours deliver,” said Lucas. “We look forward to bringing this matter before the appellate courts in California to avoid similar outcomes in future cases where appropriate care was provided.”
A hearing is scheduled in Sacramento for May 31.
Read more at the Seattle Times.
Written by Alyssa Gerace