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State | THE STATE / HEALTH

Judge Cuts Award Against Care Firm

June 11, 1998|Bloomberg News

Beverly Enterprises Inc. has persuaded a California state court judge to slash a $95.1-million jury award to a patient injured in one of the company's nursing homes by 97%, citing the award as excessive. Superior Court Judge James Kleaver in Yreka chopped the total award to Reba Gregory to $3.1 million after finding jurors miscalculated actual damages stemming from her injuries. Kleaver also concluded that the punitive damage award against Beverly, a Fort Smith, Ark.-based nursing home chain, was unreasonably high. It's the second time in six months that a multimillion-dollar jury award against Beverly over the operation of its 570 nursing homes and other health-care facilities has been reduced. In December, a Texas judge cut an $83-million award to a former patient to $54.6 million because of a state law capping punitive damage awards. In March, jurors found that 69-year-old Gregory deserved $365,580 in compensatory damages for suffering a broken hip and shoulder while being readied to be moved from her nursing home bed. Jurors also handed down $94.7 million in punitive damages after Gregory's lawyers showed the company had a policy of falsifying work schedules to make it appear more attendants were on duty and ignored complaints about staffing levels, court papers show. Kleaver, though, said jurors did not adequately consider some mitigating factors showing the company tried to boost staffing levels and that the disparity between the actual and punitive damages found made the award excessive. Kleaver added that he would grant Beverly's request for a new trial unless Gregory agreed to the reduction in damages by June 24. Beverly shares fell 6 cents to close at $14.44 on the New York Stock Exchange.

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