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Health Facilities Mgmt. Corp. v. Hughes, 2006 Ark. LEXIS 122 (Ark. 2006)

Health Facilities Mgmt. Corp. v. Hughes

A management company and a nursing facility appeals from a judgment entered against them in favor of the resident’s estate and her beneficiaries. Following a one-week trial, the jury assessed damages of $38,000, a violation of the resident rights statute with damages of $1.25 million against the management company and $700,000 against the facility. An order was entered providing that 10% interest would accrue. Motions for judgment notwithstanding the verdict or for new trial or remittitur were denied. Defendants appealed. On appeal, the management company argued that only a licensed nursing home can be sued for a violation of the resident right statute and that it was not licensed as such. Plaintiff argued that the management agree to give the defendant responsibility for daily operations. Construing the act, the court found that the cause of action was against a licensee and, since the management company did not hold a license, it was not subject to action under the act. The facility argued that the resident rights verdict against it must be reversed because it was inconsistent with the jury’s verdict on negligence claims. The court found that the negligence claims and the resident rights claims were separate and the jury’s verdict would be sustained if it was supported by substantial evidence, which it was. The court found that the trial court did not abuse its discretion in refusing to grant a mistrial after the owner’s salary was mentioned despite a motion in limine having been granted; the admonition by the circuit court to the jury to disregard the question regarding the salaries of the Bedells was clear, precise, and strong. The facility argued that remittitur was appropriate because a punitive claim of $700,000 was excessive where the underlying damages were $38,000. The court reviewed the evidence of abuse presented at trial ad found that the verdict did not shock the conscience of the court and did not violate the standard in Advocat, Inc. v. Sauer, 353 Ark. 29 (Ark. 2003).

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