In January 2012, a jury delivered a landmark verdict against the parent company of the Pinellas Park Care and Rehab Center, awarding the plaintiff $200 million.
At Buttafuoco & Associates, our northern New Jersey nursing home abuse lawyers find this case especially noteworthy because it continues to stand as one of the largest nursing home abuse settlements over a decade later. When asked for a statement, the jury noted that the sum was intended to send a message that someone needs to take responsibility for the poor care residents received.
Nursing Home Abuse Case Details
The case stemmed from the October 2004 death of Elvira Nunziata, 92, a resident with dementia at Pinellas Park Care and Rehab Center. She had wandered away from other facility residents, and was found an hour later at the bottom of a stairwell after toppling one story while strapped to a wheelchair. She died from her injuries while paramedics were on the scene.
Former aides at the home testified that the door to the stairwell where Ms. Nunziata was found should have been locked, but that staffers often disabled the alarm so they could smoke. Furthermore, the nursing home had a history of abuse complaints, and aides said the facility was frequently understaffed. Ms. Nunziata herself had previously suffered other falls and injuries in her time at the facility since 2003.
Collecting A Nursing Home Abuse Settlement
What our Buttafuoco & Associates nursing home attorneys in Northern New Jersey find remarkable about the $200 million verdict is that the company that would have assumed responsibility was defunct at the time of the ruling.
According to reporting in the Tampa Bay Times, this is not unusual, and for-profit nursing home chains often insulate themselves from liability through complex legal maneuvers, not unlike those our mass tort attorneys have seen at Buttafuoco & Associates.
Ms. Nunziata’s son Richard Nunziata brought charges her behalf in a wrongful death case against Trans Health Management Inc., who had sole authority to operate the home at the time. Its parent company based in Maryland, Trans Health, Inc., acted as the defendant; there were no defense attorneys at the trial.
Winning the verdict was easy, but this made collecting the $200 million award was going to be difficult.
Often our Northern New Jersey nursing home attorneys note that trying to collect damages, no matter the amount, from a nonexistent defendant is typically fruitless, but the dogged attorneys for Ms. Nunziata’s estate pursued the shuffle of transferred assets, strategic bankruptcy, and shell corporations through Florida, Maryland and Georgia. The Tampa law firm of Wilkes & McHugh, which represented Nunziata’s estate, alleged that the true owners were private equity investors who shuffled the assets of Trans Health Management into affiliated entities to avoid liability.
If you or a loved one experience abuse or neglect in a nursing facility, we understand how it may seem impossible to mount a lawsuit or collect damages, but the case of Ms. Nunziata is a helpful reminder that justice is possible.
Nursing home owners may try to shield their profits and shirk liability, but Ms. Nunziata’s estate has shown us that they’re not untouchable. And the nursing home abuse attorneys at Buttafuoco & Associates have the experience and spirit to fight back.
Call 1-800-NOW-HURT for a free consultation.