I started out my career defending big insurance companies, I always wanted to win for my client, but by the same token, I frequently had a great deal of sympathy for the plaintiffs and believed that they should win. Becoming a plaintiffs’ lawyer meant I can help people obtain justice and have a profound impact on their lives while creating a change that helps others. The Dahmer family is an example of that.
The Dahmer family were very tightknit, hardworking, loving, salt-of-the-earth people. George was the patriarch of the family and cherished by his wife and children. After a career as a professional wrestler, the Dahmers moved to Florida to spend their golden years. Unfortunately, George developed dementia. Despite having no medical background and a limited education, his wife, Patricia, was able to be George’s fulltime caretaker and keep him free of any injury. After an event where he was aggressive, the police suggested that George be hospitalized for a few days in order to adjust his medications. A few days later, the hospital discharged George to Lake Worth Manor for “short-term rehabilitation.” A few months later, George was discharged to another facility unable to speak, unable to walk, 32 pounds lighter, dehydrated, and with wounds down to the bone on his coccyx and his heels.
Florida law requires nursing homes to have insurance, but does not require a minimum policy limit. The facility was self-insured for only $10,000, and had gone to great lengths to be asset-protected. Moreover, any case would clearly take years to resolve and force the attorney to incur six figures in costs. We agreed to accept the case with the primary goal of forcing the facility to close its doors or change the manner in which it conducted its business. Throughout the case, the facility mistakenly believed that no lawyer would incur the costs and time to proceed to trial as, if the nursing home lost, it would just file for bankruptcy.
We proceeded to trial and obtained a seven-figure verdict. After a lengthy appeal, which we won, I received a call from a prominent bankruptcy lawyer who told me if the case did not settle they would file for bankruptcy the next day. As we refused to negotiate, a check for the amount of the verdict, costs and interest was delivered to my office the next day. This victory provided justice for my clients and also gave them closure. Moreover, it saved countless lives. The nursing home had a one-star rating from the date it opened its doors until the date of the verdict. While handling that case, I received calls from other families who wanted to proceed with cases against this nursing home as their loved ones had been injured and others had died. Following payment of the verdict, the facility has routinely maintained a four- to five-star rating. Clearly, they made a business decision to invest money into providing better care for their residents instead of paying large verdicts, and that has prevented countess residents from suffering needless injuries and, for some, saved their lives.
This blog is by Firm Partner Joe Landy.