CALIFORNIA HORROR STORY: COULD IT HAPPEN IN VIRGINIA?

We place our aged loved ones in nursing homes because they can no longer take care of themselves and we lack the knowledge and/or ability to care for them ourselves. We expect our mothers, fathers, sisters, and brothers to be cared for…we don’t expect what happened in a California nursing home.

Sophie Schwartz, 92, suffered from dementia and lived at a nursing home. Jose Vazquez, an assistant cook at the facility, entered Schwartz’s room with a master key that was provided to all the facility’s employees. Schwartz awoke to find Vazquez on top of her, allegedly attempting to rape her. The assault continued until Vazquez was caught by another caregiver who entered the room.

Schwartz, through a guardian, sued the nursing home and the home’s former administrator and executive director, alleging negligent hiring practices, understaffing, and lack of proper supervision. The lawsuit claimed claimed Vazquez was provided unfettered access to Schwartz and other residents despite having provided false credentials and identification to obtain his position.

A jury in Los Angles was equally appalled by these events and awarded $12.5 million to Schwartz, finding the nursing home 25 percent liable; the successor corporation 2 percent at fault; the administrator 23 percent responsible; and Vazquez 50 percent liable. The award included $5 million punitive damages against the nursing home and $1.5 million punitive damages against Vazquez.

My Take: This tragedy should be a warning to all nursing homes that they are entrusted with caring for our family members and will be held accountable when they fail.

Dan Frith

Dan Frith

Dan Frith has over 25 years of experience representing individuals and families in cases of medical malpractice throughout Virginia. He has been named "Best Medical Malpractice Attorney" by Roanoker Magazine and is a member of the Million Dollar Advocates Forum. To speak with Dan, contact him by email at dfrith@frithlawfirm.com.