The Sacramento Bee reported on the trial against Emeritus Corp involving Joan Boice, the 82-year-old retired teacher and the level of care she received during her three-month stay at Emeritus at Emerald Hills. Boice lost substantial weight and developed at least four pressure sores that contributed to her death during her three-month stay at Emerald Hills. Clement argued Boice never should have been admitted into Emerald Hills and that she should have immediately been transferred to a skilled nursing home as soon as staffers at the Emeritus residential care facility discovered the life-threatening pressure ulcers within a few weeks of her arrival. The plaintiffs based their case on staffing levels at Emerald Hills that some nights left nobody on duty in the facility’s memory care unit where Boice lived.
Attorney Lesley Ann Clement said the Emeritus Corp. of Seattle was so obsessed with profits that once it got the old and sick inside its residential care communities, there was only one way out for them. The company wanted “heads in the beds,” and once they got them inside, there was no “closing the back door,” she argued in closing against the country’s biggest assisted living company. “The only move out that is acceptable,” Clement said, in a paraphrase of Emeritus’ corporate philosophy of the assisted living business, “is death.”
Clement cited testimony that Emeritus’ resident nurse knew early on in Boice’s stay about the bed sores but instructed a caregiver to “just don’t let anybody know.” Boice fell down 10 days into her stay and was never able to get out of her wheelchair again – after which her most serious pressure sore developed on her backside. Clement said the company’s drive for profits motivated it to accept patients who should never have been allowed in and to keep them inside once they got there. Emeritus knowingly refused to add staff or properly train its employees, in order to keep its costs down.
In his closing argument Emeritus lawyer Bryan R. Reid attempted to divert the attention of the jury from the evidence of neglect by criticizing the family’s lawyer. He whined to the jury that Clement’s “game” was to bombard them with emotion and irrelevancy. “There are not facts that merit a substantial shift of wealth to the Boice family,” Reid told the jury. “They lost their mother to a disease, not to the people who were doing battle with a disease.” The inevitability of her death by Alzheimer’s “wasn’t shocking to them,” he said, “and it shouldn’t have been.” Instead, the defense lawyer argued, plaintiffs attorneys followed an “elder abuse formula” that seeks to ring up heavy damages in a civil case with a “bash the corporation” strategy. It’s designed, Reid said, to prejudice the jury against Emeritus.
Emeritus “will do whatever it takes” to improve its bottom line, Clement told the jury, even if it harms “our greatest treasures” – older relatives who have been entrusted into the company’s residential care network. Clement asked the jury for “payback” on Emeritus, but she did not list a monetary amount on the damages she is seeking on behalf of Boice’s family.