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CASE TYPE: negligence CASE: Muccianti v. Fountain View Inc., No. 625122-7 (Super. Ct., Fresno Co., Calif.) PLAINTIFFS’ ATTORNEYS: Bennie Lazzara Jr. of the Tampa, Fla., office and Stephen M. Garcia of the Los Angeles office of Tampa’s Wilkes & McHugh DEFENSE ATTORNEYS: Mark Schreiber and Jeffrey Stoltz of Encino, Calif.’s Law Offices of Mark Schreiber JURY VERDICT: $5.22 million Margaret Muccianti 65, went to the Willow Creek Care Center in Fresno, Calif., to recover from an operation to remove a blood clot in her leg, plaintiffs’ attorney Bennie Lazzara Jr. said. Muccianti was admitted on Feb. 5, 1998, and was discharged 32 days later to her daughter’s home. “Sixteen hours after the discharge, she was rushed to the hospital and died of a stomach ailment that she had complained of while at the nursing center,” Lazzara said. Muccianti’s children, John Muccianti and Dorothy Beard, sued the owners and operators of the nursing home, Fountain View Inc., Summit Care Corp. and Summit Care California Inc. They alleged that Muccianti was discharged on March 9 because her Medicare benefits had run out. “It was an illegal and improper discharge,” Lazzara alleged. “You’re not supposed to throw out patients from a nursing home.” Willow Creek staff members had failed to investigate her complaints or provide proper medical care, Lazzara alleged. Muccianti had ischemic bowel disease and acute peritonitis, he said, but the nursing staff members “thought she had a mental problem.” While she was in the center, she lost 31 pounds. The plaintiffs contended that understaffing at the nursing home caused the failure to assess and treat Muccianti’s medical condition properly. To prove this point, the plaintiffs called no experts but used as witnesses eight former workers at the Willow Creek home “who testified how little care she was being given,” Lazzara said. Calling several former workers to provide a picture of what went on in a nursing home is essential to a plaintiffs’ case, he said. “If you call several, the defense can’t claim it’s just one disgruntled employee” charging problems at a home. The testimony by “real care givers,” he said, “has impact beyond calling experts.” The defense denied any negligence or improper discharge from the nursing home, but a Fresno jury awarded the plaintiffs $5.22 million, including $4.5 million in punitives. The defense declined to comment.

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