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Jury awards $160 million in nursing home suit

Feb 23, 2006 | www.mysanantonio.com
Abuse on Patient

Nursing Home Knowingly Paired A Frail 81-Year-Old Man With A Volent, Mentally Ill Roommate

After hearing claims that a nursing home knowingly paired a frail 81-year-old man with a violent, mentally ill roommate who viciously pummeled him, a jury responded Wednesday with one of the largest civil judgments ever awarded in San Antonio.

Finding that Summit Care Corp., its Texas affiliate and two nursing home employees shared the blame for the beating and its after effects, the jury awarded a total of $160 million to the estate of Tranquilino Mendoza, who died less than three years after the attack, from unrelated causes.

Mendoza's daughter was overcome with emotion upon hearing the verdict.

"I wish my daddy was here," said a sobbing Rosamarie Paradez, who as administrator of Mendoza's estate pursued the case after his death.

"I'm glad I had the opportunity to finish what he started."

An attorney for the defendants, said members of Mendoza's family agreed during trial that he received excellent care at the Comanche Trail Nursing Center until the attack. She said medical records demon-strated that Mendoza recovered quickly and fully from his injuries.

 "It has been our desire to fairly and reasonably compensate Mr. Mendoza and his family for the injuries he sustained," the defendants attorney said. "Because of the enormity of the jury's verdict, we intend to pursue available legal remedies."

Mendoza's Roommate Was Involved In 30 Assaults.

 During a trial that ran nearly two weeks before 73rd District Judge Andy Mireles, attorneys for the plaintiffs offered evidence that Mendoza's roommate was involved in 30 assaults before he was paired with Mendoza.

On Sept. 28, 1997, two days after they were assigned to live together, the roommate beat Mendoza with a water pitcher, a glass and his fists. Attorneys said Mendoza was seriously injured and never recovered from the trauma.

There is no definitive list of the largest civil judgments awarded in Bexar County, but the nursing-home case easily ranks among them. In recent memory, three juries in San Antonio's county and federal courts awarded larger sums.

In 1992, a jury awarded $1.3 billion to two men and an Australian firm in a breach of contract lawsuit in a purported con involving 1.75 million ounces of gold.

Mexican-based grocery wholesaler Valores Corp. won a 1999 breach-of-contract lawsuit against Wal-Mart Stores. The jury awarded $624 million in actual damages; the case was settled before punitive damages were awarded.

In 2002, a jury ordered Hillenbrand Industries to pay nearly $174 million to San Antonio-based Kinetic Concepts in a federal antitrust lawsuit.

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