The recent struggles of a family to collect a $200-million verdict against a Florida nursing home highlight the difficulty that plaintiffs frequently face in getting the money that a jury has ruled is theirs.
Elvira Nunziata, a 92-year-old resident of Pinelas Park Care and Rehab Center, died in 2004 after falling down a stairwell to her death. Her family sued the company that operated the home for negligence because a door was wrongfully left open while employees went for a smoke break.
A jury returned its verdict against the defendant in January; but as the Tampa Bay Tribune reported on Feb. 4, “Now the real battle has begun.” According to the Tribune, the ownership of the home was a complex maze of multiple companies, making it difficult to determine who’s making money and who’s responsible for what.
The company that operated the home at the time of the accident no longer existed, another company had inherited the nursing home’s income streams, and a third company had inherited its liabilities. In fact, the defendant left so few traces of its true existence that no lawyer was even sent to try the case.
Chicago plaintiff’s attorney Steven M. Levin, whose practice focuses largely on nursing home litigation, says that the difficulty the plaintiffs are facing in the Nunziata case is nothing new. Nursing-home owners have deliberately created complex structures to make it difficult for plaintiffs to collect judgments, he says.
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