After a five-week trial, a Los Angeles Superior Court jury awarded 94 year-old Sophie Schwartz $6 million in general damages and $6.5 million in punitive damages following a 2007 sexual assault at a senior living facility in Santa Clarita.
Schwartz, who suffers from dementia, was sexually assaulted in her room by an illegal immigrant named Jose Vasquez, who was employed by Oakdale Heights Management Corporation. Both Vasquez and Oakdale Heights were listed as defendants in the case.
“This was a very emotional trial on many different levels,” stated Gregory Owen of Santa Clarita-based personal injury law firm Owen, Patterson & Owen who, along with wife and partner Susan Owen, represented Schwartz. “The jury sent a loud message to elder care providers who choose profit over people and ignore laws designed to protect our community’s most vulnerable members. This type of conduct will not be tolerated.”
The $12.5 million judgment is one of the largest ever awarded for emotional trauma.
The jury found that Oak Heights Management Corporation purposely falsified employment documents in order to hire Vasquez, who was given a master key to all rooms. Additionally, Oak Heights was found to have violated several California laws governing the care of dementia residents.
Vasquez was convicted in a criminal case in 2008 and is serving an eight-year sentence for attempted rape.
One of the corporate defendants is currently ranked the 28th largest operator of elder home facilities in the nation.