An Albuquerque jury returned a $54.5 million damage award recently against a health services company arising out of the 2004 rape of a profoundly retarded man. The award included more than $49 million in punitive damages. The jurors were very upset that these corporations would not accept responsibility for their actions. The verdict was against ResCare New Mexico and its parent ResCare Inc., the Louisville-based international health services company.
The victim, who cannot speak or perform daily functions on his own, was raped while living in College House, a group home operated by one of ResCare’s New Mexico subsidiaries. The lawsuit was brought on the victim’s behalf by his sister. Jurors heard three weeks of testimony about what happened to the victim, the aftermath, and the relationship between the health care company’s New Mexico operations and Kentucky headquarters. The verdict consisted of $4.95 million in compensatory damages and $1.2 million in punitive damages against the all-but-defunct ResCare New Mexico and $48 million in punitive damages against ResCare Inc.
One juror said in a post-verdict interview: “the further you went up the corporate ladder, the less accountability there was.” Another juror observed that the “silver lining” for ResCare was that the company can take note and make sure this sort of thing “doesn’t happen again.” A number of jurors said as a group that “the most honesty was from the front-line people who were paid $7 an hour.”
The New Mexico Department of Health canceled ResCare’s contract in 2006 without citing a reason, and it no longer operates any facilities in the state. Carl Bettinger, Greg Chase, lawyers from Albuquerque, N.M., and Tom Lilly, from Roswell, N.M., represented the Plaintiff and did a very good job.
Source: ABQ Journal
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