The difference between skilled in-home care and non-skilled in-home care were important themes in a $9.4 million elder neglect case that resulted in a defense victory.
“It’s important to understand that non-skilled caregivers aren’t there to provide medical services,” said Emily Beck, a Partner at Tyson & Mendes’ San Diego office, who participated in defending against the claim.
The Estate of Simon Nord sued Assisting Hands Home Care in Orange County Superior Court alleging liability for the death of Mr. Nord.
However, in a 15-day trial that took place over the course of four weeks, the jury rejected the estate’s claim.
“The jury had a pretty extensive verdict form they needed to fill out for the two main claims of negligence and elder neglect,” Beck said. “They didn’t find any negligence on the part of the caregiver and no elder neglect by anybody.”
The elder neglect case involved the death of Nord, 95, who fell from a seated position in his home and subsequently passed away from his injuries.
“There’s a difference between being a fall risk from a seated position than from a standing position,” Beck told OrangeCountyLawyers.com. “The decedent clearly was not a fall risk from a seated position. He hadn’t ever suffered another fall similar to this from any seated position, whether it be the toilet where the subject fall occurred, his wheelchair, sofa, or the dining room chair.”
Although there was negligence found on the part of Assisting Hands related to record-keeping, it was determined that oversight was not causally related to the Nord’s death.
“Our clients provided minimal, non-medical services to the elderly gentleman,” said defense attorney Harry Harrison who tried the case along with Beck and is a Partner at Tyson & Mendes.
While Nord’s adult children argued that Assisting Hands and one of its caretaker employees were responsible for their father’s death through negligent caregiving, defense counsel focused on defusing juror anger.
“Our main expert witness, Dr. Karl Steinberg, opined on the standard of care for non-skilled home care companies, which was very impactful,” Beck said.
Other defense methods that were employed by Beck and Harrison included accepting responsibility, arguing pain and suffering, and personalizing the corporate defendant.
For example, the owner of the skilled nursing facility was present at the courthouse daily and she also testified on behalf of her company.
“The testimony of the owner that we represented was really impactful,” Beck said. “She helped personalize the entity defendant and I think the jury saw her as a human and a very caring person.”
Last year, the firm launched the Nuclear Verdicts Defense Institute to teach the methods to other defense attorneys while Robert Tyson, strategic managing partner at Tyson & Mendes, authored, Nuclear Verdicts®: Defending Justice for All.
The book details methods attorneys can employ to minimize damage awards.
“We extend our sympathies to the family of this elderly gentleman but are grateful the jury understood the facts and applied the law,” Beck added. “We trusted them to return to our themes of common sense, reasonableness, and responsibility in reaching a just verdict, and their care in assessing the facts was evident.”
Juliette Fairley covers legal topics for various publications including the Southern California Record, the Epoch Times and Pacer Monitor-News. Prior to discovering she had an ease and facility for law, Juliette lived in Orange County and Los Angeles where she pursued acting in television and film.