Saturday, December 16, 2017
News Roundup

Record-breaking $200 million nursing home verdict came without a defense

ST. PETERSBURG — A $200 million verdict in a nursing home abuse case this week not only set a record for the Tampa Bay area, but outstripped other big verdicts several times over.

Of course, it didn't hurt that no lawyers showed to defend the nursing home.

The case stemmed from the 2004 death of Elvira Nunziata, 92, a resident with dementia at Pinellas Park Care and Rehab Center.

Her bloody body was found at the bottom of a stairwell after she toppled one story while strapped to a wheelchair.

Former aides at the home testified that the door to the stairwell was supposed to be locked, but that staffers often disabled the alarm so they could go smoke.

The home had a history of deficiency citations and abuse complaints and the aides said it was frequently understaffed.

The defendant was Trans Health Management Inc., who had sole authority to operate the home at the time, but has since gone defunct. Its parent company, Trans Health, Inc., is in receivership in Maryland.

The Tampa law firm of Wilkes & McHugh, which represented Nunziata's estate, alleged that the true owners were private equity investors who shuffled the assets of Trans Health Management into affiliated entities to avoid liability and then chose not to mount a defense.

Tampa lawyer Marsha Rydberg filed an unsuccessful motion on behalf of the management company three days before the trial, trying to stop it.

Any verdict could rebound against the Maryland receivership for the parent corporation, she alleged. And Wilkes & McHugh had sandbagged the receivership, she said, by promising not to pursue litigation against it. So the receivership did not defend the case.

Pinellas Circuit Court Judge Pam Campbell denied that motion.

In their news release announcing the verdict and in a later interview Thursday, Wilkes & McHugh representatives failed to mention that they had the trial courtroom all to themselves.

Comments

High school scoreboard for Dec. 15

Friday’s scoreboardGirls soccerCountryside 7, Clearwater 0Osceola 9, Bradenton Bayshore 0Palm Harbor U. 2, Plant 1Boys soccerPalm Harbor U. 0, Plant 0Lennard 4, Armwood 1
Updated: 6 hours ago

Lottery resultsNumbers drawn after 9 p.m. are no longer available by our deadlines. For results, go to tampabay.com/lottery.Pick 2, 3, 4, 5Fri., Dec. 15, midday:01 563 0000e_SRit95765Fri., Dec. 15, evening:12 287 1492e_SRit04851Fantasy 5Fri., Dec. 15...
Updated: 6 hours ago
Gators play Nebraska, still seeking elusive volleyball title

Gators play Nebraska, still seeking elusive volleyball title

KANSAS CITY, Mo. — There is very little these days that can dampen the mood of Florida volleyball coach Mary Wise, whose Gators knocked off reigning national champion Stanford in Thursday’s NCAA semifinals and face Nebraska tonight for the title. Not...
Updated: 6 hours ago
Pinellas sheriff’s investigator fired, could face criminal charges for involvement in child custody battle

Pinellas sheriff’s investigator fired, could face criminal charges for involvement in child custody battle

LARGO — A Pinellas sheriff’s child protective investigator has been fired and could face criminal charges after an investigation found she made a child custody recommendation to a judge as a favor to a friend.Jayne Johnson, who has worked for the She...
Updated: 7 hours ago
Festivus 2017: Send us your best grievances

Festivus 2017: Send us your best grievances

Here's your chance. Tell us what annoyed you in 2017, and we'll share it with our readers.
Updated: 7 hours ago
Experts chart path for Hillsborough to grow smarter before sprawl takes over

Experts chart path for Hillsborough to grow smarter before sprawl takes over

TAMPA — Nearly 600,000 more people will live in Hillsborough County by 2040, and if elected officials and county planners don’t take bold steps now, the population boom will turn the county into the soulless sprawl of Anywhere, U.S.A.That’s the messa...
Updated: 8 hours ago

Highlights of GOP compromise bill to overhaul tax code

WASHINGTON — Republicans in Congress have blended separate tax bills passed by the House and Senate into compromise legislation that seeks to achieve a sweeping overhaul of the nation’s tax code. GOP leaders are looking toward passage of the final pa...
Updated: 8 hours ago
Tillerson retreats on offer of unconditional N. Korea talks

Tillerson retreats on offer of unconditional N. Korea talks

WASHINGTON — America’s top diplomat stepped back Friday from his offer of unconditional talks with North Korea, telling world powers that the nuclear-armed nation must earn the right to negotiate with the United States. Secretary of State Rex Tillers...
Updated: 8 hours ago
Judge signals release of ex-Trump chair Paul Manafort to Florida home under curfew and GPS monitoring

Judge signals release of ex-Trump chair Paul Manafort to Florida home under curfew and GPS monitoring

A federal judge Friday said a bail package has been put together that would release former Trump campaign chairman Paul Manafort from home confinement in his condominium in Virginia and allow him to reside at his house in Palm Beach Gardens, but unde...
Updated: 8 hours ago
Deputies: Plant City men fled in stolen car, shot dog, hid in swamp

Deputies: Plant City men fled in stolen car, shot dog, hid in swamp

DOVER — Two Plant City men who ran from deputies and shot a dog were captured after a brief pursuit Thursday, according to the Hillsborough County Sheriff’s Office.They ditched a stolen car, ran away on foot, crossed through several yards and then tr...
Updated: 9 hours ago