CALIFORNIA ELDER ABUSE DEFENSE VERDICT

CALIFORNIA ELDER ABUSE DEFENSE VERDICT

By: Molly Horan, Independent Correspondent

Posted: 4/13/10

San Diego, California

A jury in San Diego County deliberated less than one day before rendering a verdict in favor of the defendant in a lawsuit claiming abuse, neglect and the wrongful death of a 92-year-old woman.  The plaintiff, Ellen Black-Eacker, claimed that caregivers from Los Angeles-based LivHome, Inc., allowed her mother to be systematically starved to death and subjected her to physical abuse and neglect which caused extensive skin tears, subcutaneous bleeding, bruises and decubitus ulcers on the patient’s sacrum.

Testimony from the plaintiff’s expert focused on the decedent’s 49-pound weight loss, the progression of multiple sites of skin breakdown, scabies and decubitus ulcers. Aside from the physical abuse and neglect, plaintiff claimed that the in-home caregivers provided by the defendant intentionally isolated the plaintiff’s decedent by refusing visits from numerous family members and friends.  During trial, the administrative director of a daycare center where the patient visited testified that, in her opinion, the plaintiff’s decedent was the victim of physical abuse and neglect by one particular caregiver.  The decedent’s son described his mother’s appearance as “a skeleton covered with skin.” 

The defendant, LivHome, Inc., had contracted with the patient’s conservator to provide a wide range of home care services including nursing staff, home companion, therapists and related services.  The defendant claimed that the decedent’s steady decline, weight loss, bruising and decubitus ulcers were caused by the natural progress of her Alzheimer’s disease and numerous medications. 

The plaintiff was represented by the California-based law firm of Lanzone Morgan, a recent spinoff from the Los Angeles office of Wilkes & McHugh, a national law firm headquartered in Florida.  

The defendant was represented by attorneys Thomas Beach and Katherine Cody of Beach Whitman Cowdrey, LLP in Oxnard, California.

The jury’s verdict was rendered on April 1, 2010.  The trial judge was the Honorable Thomas P. Nugent, San Diego County Superior Court.

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