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A tort reform advocate's dream, my article in Forbes.com

By Michael Fumento

It's a tort reform advocate's dream - meaning a defendant's worst nightmare.

As I write in my Forbes.com article "California Trial Lawyers Find A Geezer Goldmine," the class action suit was based entirely on wording so tortuous that the nine members of the Supreme Court would have 10 different interpretations. An earlier case in the same state was tossed out because of that wording. Yet this defendant was slammed with a massive $671 million penalty, vastly beyond its ability to pay. And punitive damages are still pending. And the decision caused the defendant's stock value to plummet 75%.

"Thar's gold in them thar nursing homes!"

Oh, and just one other thing. The very size of the verdict effectively prevents an appeal. But besides all that . . .

This is the inner layer of hell in which Skilled Healthcare California LLC finds itself. The nation's 10th largest nursing care provider, it has 14,000 workers in California alone, making it one of the largest employers in a state with the third-worst jobless rate in America.

They won't be better off because of this decision, and may well be much worse off.

What horrors did the company inflict on those poor seniors to deserve the highly penalty awarded by any court this year? Convert them to Soylent Green? Actually no showing of harm was required - a blessing for the plaintiffs' attorneys because the California Nursing Home Directory has received over a thousand complaints but none regarding Skilled Healthcare.

This is the most amazingly awful court decision I have ever written about - which is saying a lot.

July 29, 2010 09:33 AM  ·  Regulation  ·  Recent Posts