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Five Largest Nursing Home Abuse Verdicts in the History of the U.S.

Families trust nursing home caregivers to take adequate care of their loved ones, but that isn’t always the case. As high as 90 percent of nursing homes in the U.S. are too understaffed to provide adequate care to all of their residents. Caregivers may neglect or even mistreat their patients – causing them long-term harm. Their age, illness, or disabilities already makes nursing home residents vulnerable to abuse, and they deserve a better quality of care from the people responsible for providing it.

At Knapp & Roberts, we are determined to hold assisted living and nursing home facilities accountable when they fail to provide proper care and attention to those who need it most. Our attorneys are dedicated to working nursing home abuse cases and have helped secure millions of dollars for our clients in the past, including a 45.5 million verdict and an $11 million verdict.

Below we have highlighted five of the largest nursing home abuse verdicts in the U.S. – with a focus on Arizona.

Compensation awarded $200 million
When was it awarded? 2012
Where? Florida
What was the case about? In October 2004, Elvira Nunziata, 92, died in her nursing home after falling down a flight of stairs, while strapped in her wheelchair. Nunziata was a resident at Pinellas Park Care and Rehab Center, who had dementia and had suffered falls and unexplained injuries in the past. The understaffed nursing home was aware of Nunziata’s tendencies to wander but had failed to keep track of her despite alarms on her clothing, her wheelchair, and an emergency door (that was left open and led to her fall down the stairs). The plaintiff’s case was handled by Wilkes & Associates.
What is the significance? As the largest nursing home abuse verdict, it can help push for increased transparency and enforcement in more nursing homes in the future.


Compensation awarded $90 million
When was it awarded? 2011
Where? West Virginia
What was the case about? Dorothy Douglas, 87, died from severe dehydration 19 days after she arrived at Heartland of Charleston, a Manor Care facility. The jury found that the nursing home failed to provide adequate care for Douglas, who had Alzheimer’s, Parkinson’s, and dementia. McHugh Fuller Law Group, the lawyers who represented the Douglas family, believe the facility’s understaffing and high staff turnover significantly contributed to her emotional and physical decline and ultimate death. 
What is the significance? Verdicts of this size show large and profitable corporations such as Manor Care that inadequate care has real consequences and will not be accepted.


Compensation awarded $45.5 million 
When was it awarded? December 1, 2004
Where? Phoenix, Arizona 
What was the case about? At age 26, Ilana Solomon drowned in her bathtub after her full-time caregiver left her unsupervised for five to ten minutes. Solomon had multiple disabilities, including severe developmental delays and poor hearing and vision. 

The caregiver was employed by a group home called Developmental Systems Inc (DSI). DSI allegedly withheld information about the caregiver’s background and failed to respond appropriately to situations where she mistreated her other disabled clients. A lawsuit was filed against DSI and Arizona (who licensed the group home), on claims of wrongful death, fraud, breach of contract, abuse, and neglect. Knapp & Roberts represented the Solomon family.

What is the significance?  Ilana and her family entrusted her caregiver to do what she could not do herself: to care for her. But people with special needs are at a higher risk of being taken advantage of, abused, or neglected by those rarely held accountable for their actions. This verdict brings accountability – and a victory for all people with special needs. 


Compensation awarded 19.2 million 
When was it awarded?  May 26, 2015
Where? Peoria, Arizona
What was the case about? Doris Cote, 86, was a patient at a nursing home facility called the Forum at Desert Harbor when she developed infected bedsores, a known sign of neglect. The attorneys for Cote’s family claim that the staff did not take the proper steps to prevent her from developing bedsores and also covered up other signs of abuse, such as her severe weight loss. Six months later, Cote died from pneumonia at another facility. 

A lawsuit was filed against Five Star Quality Care Inc. on claims of wrongful death and elder abuse. Lloyd & Robinson PLLC represented the plaintiff’s case. A jury ruled that Five Star wasn’t responsible for Cote’s death, but it did cause her pain and suffering. 

What is the significance? All high verdicts hold the potential for reform because they get the attention of not just lower-level management – but at the executive level. This verdict aims to change the facility’s overall practices.


Compensation awarded $11 million 
When was it awarded? March 19, 2009
Where? Phoenix, Arizona 
What was the case about?  At age 36, Earl Scherrer died from indigestion of foreign objects while in the care of an assisted living facility called Liberty Manor Residency. In 1996, Scherrer suffered a traumatic brain injury after a car accident and had gone into a coma. Doctors did not believe he would recover, but with the faith and support of his wife, Scherrer began recovering against all odds. 

On April 7, 2006, Scherrer’s wife placed him in Liberty Manor Residency – a facility that provided 24-hour supervision for its residents. A month later, she received a call that Scherrer had been vomiting. She brought him home, and shortly after, he started vomiting black matter and died in her arms. 

An autopsy would reveal that items such as plastic bags, unopened cat subpackets, candy wrappers, and paper towels were inside Scherrer’s stomach and small intestines. According to a medical examiner, these foreign objects majorly contributed to Scherrer’s death. 

A lawsuit was filed against Liberty Manor Residency on claims of abuse and neglect, wrongful death, and punitive damages. Knapp & Roberts represented the plaintiff’s case and helped secure financial compensation on behalf of Scherrer’s wife.

What is the significance? This was the largest verdict awarded against an assisted living facility in the U.S.  It was a victory for all people with TBI or other disabilities living in assisted living centers. Scherrer’s wife hopes this verdict will force assisted living facilities to raise their standards of care for their residents – and to improve how they protect those who cannot protect themselves.

How Experienced Attorneys Make a Difference

It’s important to know that while past performance isn’t a guarantee of future results – much like the stock market, working with an experienced attorney in nursing home abuse cases has a direct impact on the legal process and its outcome. It can be hard to know how much your claim is truly worth – especially when the nursing home refuses to take responsibility for the abuse or neglect. An experienced attorney will help you or your family maximize your settlement or verdict by:

  • Hiring medical experts to help you properly calculate the value of your injuries and other damages – including the present, past, and future losses.
  • Making sure your claim is trial-ready, just in case. Taking the case to trial demands more time, money, and resources, but it can also award more money than a settlement. An experienced attorney can help you make the right decision for your unique situation.  
  • Handling all negotiations with the opposing parties. With an attorney on your side, you won’t ever feel blindsided. An attorney will keep you up-to-date on your case while handling the uncomfortable exchanges with the nursing home’s legal team on your behalf. 

When a loved one gets mistreated by a caregiver or in a nursing home, you will want to see changes in that nursing home facility. You will want to know that this abuse won’t happen again. Significant verdicts and settlements hold the nursing homes accountable for their misconduct, while also bringing about policy changes. The larger the verdict, the more effective it will be for the public and policymakers, and an experienced attorney is key to achieving a large verdict.

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The personal injury attorneys in Phoenix, Arizona at Knapp & Roberts have the compassion and trial lawyer skills to tell your story to a jury. We will get to know you and your family so that we can help the jury understand what has happened to you and your family and how it has changed your lives. Obtain the compensation necessary for the injuries and losses you have suffered.