The Supreme Judicial Court of Massachusetts made a horrible decision by rejecting the Attorney General’s attempt to prosecute Life Care Centers of America for the death of a resident. See article from The Boston Globe here. In 2007, Coakley’s prosecutors convinced a Middlesex grand jury to return a manslaughter charge against Life Care, a Tennessee-based operator of nursing homes nationwide.
Life Care Centers of America was charged with manslaughter because numerous employees willfully violated the standard of care by failing to safeguard a resident who died when she fell down steps after her wheelchair overturned. McCauley was unsupervised in her wheelchair at 7 a.m. without an alert device on her wrist that closes the facility’s doors. The Globe reported in 2007 that McCauley had a habit of wandering away. Doctors ordered her to have a device put on her wrist that sets off an alarm and closes the center’s doors when patients get near them. She apparently wheeled herself through the double doors and fell down eight steps.
The Attorney General attempted to hold Life Care Centers of America criminally liable for the “aggregate actions’’ of all the employees she said played a role in the failed care of Julia McCauley. “A corporation may be criminally liable for the crimes alleged here only where at least one of its employees could be found individually liable for the crime,’’ Justice Judith Cowin wrote for the court.
The SJC ruling does not end the criminal case because Coakley may be able to pursue a manslaughter prosecution on a different legal theory — that the actions of a single supervisor caused the woman’s death.