In 2004, 74-year-old nursing home resident Julia McCauley, who had dementia, was left unattended and without an alert device on her wrist. According to an article in the Boston Globe, Ms. McCauley “apparently wheeled herself through the double doors and fell down eight steps.” Massachusetts Attorney General Martha Coakley attempted to prosecute the nursing home–Life Care Centers of America–as criminally liable for the actions of all the employees who allegedly failed to properly care for the resident.
The Supreme Judicial Court unanimously ruled that the corporation couldn’t be held criminally liable because “A corporation may be criminally liable for the crimes alleged here only where at least one of its employees could be found individually liable for the crime,’’ Justice Judith Cowin wrote for the court.
As a company that stands firmly on the side of nursing home residents, HensonFuerst is saddened to hear this decision. On the surface, at least, it sounds as if corporations can ignore safety and get away with it. On the other hand, we are heartened to know that Attorney General Coakley isn’t giving up:
“…we respect but are disappointed by this decision. In this case, we allege the nursing home failed to live up to its obligations to properly care for its residents which resulted in the tragic death of the 74-year-old victim. We are continuing to review this decision to determine its impact and will evaluate our next steps in prosecuting this case.’’