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According to a 2009 wrongful death lawsuit, Arlene Townsend was a resident of the Auburndale Oaks Healthcare Center from 2004 until her death in 2007, at the age of 69.  The lawsuit claimed that Ms. Townsend suffered 17 falls at the nursing home due to the lack of proper supervision.  The last fall resulted in a hip fracture; the suit claimed Townsend was left in bed for days before being transported to the hospital for treatment.  The suit also claimed that the nursing home was operating with inadequate staff or without ample supplies.

Trans Healthcare Inc., owner of the nursing home, and its management company, Trans Healthcare Management, were listed as defendants, but stopped defending the suit claiming that it had not operated the nursing home since September 2004.  As result of ignoring the suit, the court entered a default judgment of liability; the judge at trial refused to throw it out. A six-member jury handed down a verdict in just over an hour, awarding $1.2 billion in punitive damages and $110 million to Townsend’s son for pain and suffering.  According to court records, Auburndale is currently being operated by Encore Healthcare LLC.

Issac Ruiz-Caruz, attorney for the plaintiff said the case was about “corporate fraud, corporate greed.”

“It was an enterprise of a conglomerate that took over a nursing home in Polk County and looted the assets of the company, short-staffed it, under-budgeted it, and as a result, the nursing home residents were suffering,” he said. “Ms. Townsend was one of those nursing home residents that suffered and ultimately died as a result of those acts,” he said.

Holding nursing homes accountable for negligent care is not easy; often times, they are insulated by one or more corporations; one owns the building, another hires staff, while another pays the bills.  Private investment firms and ownership may change so often that as money is shifted around, it becomes harder and harder to track.  When this happens, it is hard for a plaintiff to hold the defendant accountable.

This lawsuit has put the corporate protective shell to the test.  Hopefully, these predators maintained some insurance.  In Lawsuit Financial’s opinion, that will be plaintiff’s only chance at some measure of justice.  We will be watching to see what happens next.

Mark Bello has thirty-six years experience as a trial lawyer and fourteen years as an underwriter and situational analyst in the lawsuit funding industry. He is the owner and founder of Lawsuit Financial Corporation which helps provide cash flow solutions and consulting when necessities of life litigation funding is needed by a plaintiff involved in pending, personal injury, litigation. Bello is a Justice Pac member of the American Association for Justice, Sustaining and Justice Pac member of the Michigan Association for Justice, Member of Public Justice, Public Citizen, the American Bar Association, the State Bar of Michigan and the Injury Board.

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