News From the End of Life: Assisted living facility pays $1.5 million for hiring felon

A Virginia jury has found Summerville Assisted Living facility in Woodbridge negligent for not properly caring for a former patient, and has awarded the patient $1.5 million.

The jury deliberated for fewer than 90 minutes. Barbara Crowe, daughter of the patient, 83-year-old Margaret Noel, filed suit last year on behalf of her mother, who was living in the facility’s Alzheimer’s wing when she fell and broke her hip in 1999. Jeffrey J. Downey, JD, attorney for Crowe, said Summerville’s negligence was exemplified by "an utter disregard for the safety of their residents, especially their vulnerable Alzheimer’s residents who were placed in the hands of a convicted felon, who received a few hours of video training and was placed on the floor caring for some 15 to 20 residents."

Evidence also showed that staffing levels were not based on the needs of the residents, but on the corporate budget, which did not take into account the acuity of the residents.

Downey says the verdict reflects a complete rejection of the notion that Alzheimer’s patients can’t experience pain and suffering, a notion he says is often articulated in settlement discussions if not in court.