A case was settled after the first phase of the trial of a nursing home case in California. The jury had returned a $1,844,400 verdict in San Mateo County Superior Court against Mills-Peninsula Health Services in the first phase. The case, which involved serious injuries to a nursing home resident, took 12 days to try. The jury found clear and convincing evidence of elder abuse in the case. As a result, the Plaintiff was entitled to attorney’s fees. The jury also found malice, oppression or fraud which is required in California for punitive damages. That required jurors to determine punitive damages in a second phase of the trial. But a confidential settlement was reached by the parties before the case ever got to the punitive phase.

Pauline Gogol, an 85-year-old woman, was seriously injured while she was a resident of a nursing home operated by Mills Peninsula Health Services Inc. Her injury, which resulted either from a fall or a drop, was “undocumented” by the nursing home staff. The woman’s injury was left untreated until a family member discovered it during a visit to the facility. At the time of her injury, Ms. Gogol was recovering and rehabilitating from a total hip replacement that had been performed last year. Prior to the hip replacement, Ms. Gogol had lived independently in a condo in San Mateo.

The case was brought by a guardian ad litem, Jennifer Gogol, and involved allegations of elder abuse and negligence on the part of Defendant Mills Peninsula Health Services Inc., doing business as Mills Peninsula Skilled Nursing. The Defendant cross-complained against two outside companies, MGA Healthcare and Relief Nursing Services, which had been hired by the Defendant to provide “sitters” to watch residents.

Ms. Gogol suffered in the fall a hip dislocation and fracture to her recently-replaced right hip. As a result of the incident, she had to undergo emergency surgery, which left her in a wheelchair and without a hip for four months. The lawyers proved there was an undocumented fall and then a cover-up by the Defendant. But the Defendant contended there was no fall or cover up and that the injury was an “expected post-surgical outcome” due to the resident’s “frail condition.” The jury obviously didn’t buy that defense and ruled for Ms. Gogol.

Anne Marie Murphy, Brian M. Schnarr, and Niall P. McCarthy, all lawyers with Cotchett, Pitre & McCarthy, located in Burlingame, Calif., represented the Plaintiff on behalf of Ms. Gogol. They did a very good job in a most difficult case. There were no witnesses to the fall and the undocumented fall had to be proved by way of information in records and by Ms. Gogol’s doctor. Since the case dealt with elder laws, the case was put on the fast track under California law.

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