“The Eskaton verdict is the largest known verdict against an assisted living facility in the country. That speaks loudly to the excellent work our team produces.”Ed Dudensing, Attorney-at-Law
Assisted living facility Eskaton describes itself as a ‘community-based non-profit’ with a mission to ‘enhance the quality of life of seniors.’
This stated commitment is at odds with the tragic outcome in the case of Barbara Lovenstein, a 77-year-old woman who died while under the care of staff at Eskaton’s memory care unit in Fountainwood.
Ms. Lovenstein’s death resulted from health complications caused by Ativan, a sedative widely – and controversially – used in elder care facilities. The drug was initially prescribed for emergency use only, in the event of Ms. Lovenstein’s occasional seizures. Instead, Eskaton staff began administering Ativan every day, against the wishes of her doctor, who ultimately refused to refill the prescription. Despite the physician’s objections, the daily administration of Ativan continued.
Two weeks after the prescription request was denied, Ms. Lovenstein’s sister discharged her. As her belongings were packed, Ms. Lovenstein choked on her lunch and was admitted to hospital with a diagnosis of aspiration pneumonia, caused by weakened muscles allowing food to enter the lungs instead of the stomach. She died two weeks later.
Sedative Misuse & Nursing Home Abuse
According to a report by Human Rights Watch, “Nursing homes across the United States routinely give antipsychotic drugs to residents with dementia to control their behavior, despite rules against the misuse of drugs as “chemical restraints.” This abusive practice remains widespread, even though the use of antipsychotic drugs on older people with dementia is associated with a nearly doubled risk of death.
Overworked and underpaid, many care facility employees administer black box drugs (such as Ativan), which they have little understanding of and aren’t qualified to monitor.
Eskaton Verdict Sets Records
With the help of Dudensing Law’s team of experienced assisted-living abuse attorneys, Barbara Lovenstein’s family successfully pursued an elder abuse lawsuit that concluded in April 2019. In what is believed to be the largest verdict ever against an assisted living facility in the United States, a Sacramento jury rendered a $42.5 million award against Eskaton for malicious, oppressive and fraudulent conduct.
The jury was presented with evidence that Eskaton engaged in abusive chemical restraint practices throughout the memory care unit because it was dangerously understaffed. Eskaton was aware of the chronic understaffing, lack of supervision, and numerous other systemic failures at the facility, but failed to remedy the problem.
“While much can and will be said about the Eskaton verdict, my clients and our legal team first and foremost would like to thank the jury for its commitment and hard work on this case over eight weeks,” said lead trial attorney Ed Dudensing in a press release. “We are humbled by their verdict and sincerely hope that it will bring about real change in the way Eskaton operates and cares for its elderly residents like Ms. Lovenstein.”
“While the amount of the award was high, the jury was specifically instructed in the punitive damages phase that they could make an award in an amount necessary to discourage future conduct given the financial condition of Eskaton. The undisputed evidence showed that Eskaton’s net worth is at least $337 million and it has $93 million in cash and liquid assets on hand. The jury got it exactly right by making an award of punitive damages in the amount of $35 million which is a little over 10% of the value of Eskaton.”
The recoveries that prompted the press coverage featured on these pages are a small sampling of the cases Mr. Dudensing has handled on behalf of victims of elder abuse and neglect. They generally represent larger than average recoveries, and in no way imply or guarantee that any prospective client will receive a similar recovery or, for that matter, prevail in litigation. We present them here only to demonstrate the types of cases Mr. Dudensing has taken on previously.