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Lemaire v. Covenant Care California, LLC

California Court of Appeals, Second District, Sixth Division

January 27, 2015

ANA LEMAIRE, Plaintiff and Respondent,
v.
COVENANT CARE CALIFORNIA, LLC, Defendant and Appellant.

Certified for Publication 2/23/15

Superior Court County No. 56-2010-00383376- CU-PO-VTA of Ventura Charles McGrath; Frederick H. Bysshe, Jr., Judges

Page 861

[Copyrighted Material Omitted]

Page 862

COUNSEL

Beach Cowdrey Owen, Thomas E. Beach; Manatt, Phelps & Phillips, Barry S. Landsberg and Joanna S. McCallum for Defendant and Appellant.

Hooper, Lundy & Bookman, Mark E. Reagan and Felicia Y. Sze for California Association of Health Facilities as Amicus Curiae on behalf of Defendant and Appellant.

Johnson-Moore, Gregory L. Johnson, Jody C. Moore; McKenna Long & Aldridge, Aaron T. Winn and Christopher J. Healey for Plaintiff and Respondent.

Balisok & Associates and Russell S. Balisok for California Advocates for Nursing Home Reform as Amicus Curiae on behalf of Plaintiff and Respondent.

OPINION

GILBERT, P. J.

Defendant Covenant Care California, LLC (Covenant) appeals a judgment after jury trial in favor of plaintiff Ana Lemaire, successor in interest to Laura Clausen. Lemaire was awarded $270, 000 in statutory damages because Covenant violated regulations requiring it to maintain complete and accurate medical records at its nursing care facility.

Page 863

(Health & Saf. Code, § 1430, subd. (b).)[1] We conclude, among other things, that: 1) patients may sue nursing facilities under section 1430, subdivision (b) for violation of federal and state regulations requiring complete and accurate health care records, (2) statutory damages under section 1430, subdivision (b) may not exceed $500 per action, and (3) the award of attorney fees and costs must be redetermined on remand. We reverse in part and affirm in part.

FACTS

Laura Clausen suffered a stroke and was admitted to Covenant's skilled nursing facility in 2010. After she died, Lemaire, her daughter, filed an action against Covenant for wrongful death, elder abuse, and violation of "patients' rights" under section 1430, subdivision (b). Lemaire alleged: 1) Covenant was "chronically understaffed, " (2) her mother did not receive "appropriate care because there was not enough staff, " and (3) her mother died as "a result of... elder abuse, neglect and willful misconduct."

In the patients' rights cause of action, Lemaire alleged six violations of the California Code of Regulations. She said Covenant violated her mother's right "to have nurses' notes be clear and legible, dated and signed... including narratives [on] how a patient responds, eats, drinks, looks, feels, and reacts." (see Cal. Code Regs., tit. 22, § 72547, subd. (a)(5).) She requested statutory damages of $500 per violation "per day."

At trial, Covenant claimed, "Nothing in [section 1430, subdivision (b)] implies that the fine is to be expanded to include each violation of resident rights or for every day it existed...." It argued the jury should be instructed that a plaintiff "can maintain an action for a violation for up ...


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