Sacramento, Calif. – Jurors have determined a Northern California-based nursing home chain should pay nearly $30 million in damages over the death of a 79-year-old former Stockton woman.
The award comes after the Sacramento County Superior Court jury on Wednesday found Colonial Healthcare of Auburn and its parent company, Rocklin-based Horizon West Healthcare Inc., guilty of elder abuse in the 2005 death of Frances Tanner.
After hearing testimony about the company's finances, jurors on Thursday determined the companies should pay $28 million in punitive damages to Tanner's estate and her daughter, Elizabeth Pao.
The punitive damages are in addition to the $1.1 million in compensatory damages the jury awarded Wednesday.
"The jury made the award they did because they rejected the way Horizon West did business," said Ed Dudensing, the attorney representing Tanner's daughter and estate.
Pao said Tanner was suffering from mild dementia, when she moved into the home in March 2005. After suffering a broken hip in a fall seven months later, Tanner died from an infected bedsore, Pao said.
During the trial, jurors heard testimony of chronic understaffing and poor medical documentation at the facility.
But attorneys representing Colonial and Horizon argued that Tanner received proper care, and that the home was not responsible for the sore that ultimately led to her death.
Horizon West Healthcare spokesman Dan Niccum said the company will "vigorously contest" the verdict.
"Mrs. Tanner received a high level of care during her stay at Colonial Healthcare, and her death in no way was due to any improprieties or failure to provide care by our staff," said Niccum.
He added the company will file a motion Friday seeking to reduce the verdict.