Judge Mike Maggio reduces unanimous jury verdict in nursing home death by 81 percent | Arkansas Blog

Thursday, July 11, 2013

Judge Mike Maggio reduces unanimous jury verdict in nursing home death by 81 percent

Posted By on Thu, Jul 11, 2013 at 12:40 PM

SAVES NEGLIGENT NURSING HOME $4.2 MILLION: Judge Mike Maggio.
  • SAVES NEGLIGENT NURSING HOME $4.2 MILLION: Judge Mike Maggio.
Circuit Judge Mike Maggio of Conway, who hopes to rise to the state Court of Appeals, has sent signals throughout his career and, since he announced for higher office, that he's a right-thinking Republican judge, conservative and no activist. In other words, he'll rule with corporate interests and against injured parties.

Who's an activist now?

Maggio, a self-styled "conservative judicial voice of reason," has negated the unanimous jury verdict in a nursing home death case in Faulkner County. Wednesday, he reduced its compensatory damage award by a whopping 81 percent, from $5.2 million to $1 million. Faulkner County, you should know for context, is not viewed as fertile ground for damage lawsuits. No runaway juries here.

But this jury heard a horror story. Martha Bull, 76, died at the Greenbrier Nursing and Rehabilitation Center in 2008. She was in excruciating pain. A doctor had ordered her transferred to a hospital emergency room for treatment of abdominal pain, but the order was lost in the shuffle. She suffered, crying loudly all the while, until she died. This is not a matter of a little locally owned family operation that made a bad mistake of omission and faced a huge financial penalty. It's one of a chain of nursing homes, set up as an independent corporation but controlled by a Fort Smith corporate owner, Michael Morton's Central Arkansas Nursing Centers. The owner is known for setting up companies with scant insurance coverage (used up by legal defense fees) behind a corporate veil designed to hamper or defeat claims such as these. The verdict was only the first step in what would have been a difficult legal effort to pierce that corporate veil to get at assets to pay the jury's judgment.

The jury found the nursing home liable for negligence, medical malpractice and violation of the patient's rights.

Maggio saw the case differently than the jurors on the critical element — money. (And, in the process sent the warmest sort of signal to the anti-damage-suit Arkansas State Chamber of Commerce, which will undoubtedly reward him with an endorsement soon, if not its tort reformer of the year award.)

The judge denied a nursing home defense motion that the entire verdict be set aside. He found there was "substantial evidence" to support findings of liability.

But Judge Maggio found the $5.2 million judgment was excessive, so great that it "shocks the conscience of the court." (Though, let us note, not the conscience of 12 jurors who heard evidence of anguish of a dying woman.) The judge said the plaintiffs' case "inflamed the passion and prejudice" of the jury, resulting in, effectively, punitive damages when only compensatory damages were allowed.

Life and pain are, in short, cheap in Judge Mike Maggio's court. That's the way the Arkansas State Chamber of Commerce likes it.

What's shocking to the conscience is that Mike Maggio is running for the bench. His past comments include displaying little sympathy for the unfortunate. Unflattering, too, was his reported use of some sort of badge to get out of a speeding ticket. So is his upside-down finances on his expensive home (he owed on it about half what he was willing to give Martha Bull's heirs). So is his previous unethical behavior, including use of campaign money for personal expenses and questions about continued operation of his law office after he took the bench.

What's also shocking to the conscience is the low price set on an old woman's suffering and mental anguish, a price that is low enough to discourage lawyers from undertaking the immense trial work, risk and long appeals to get justice for people who die helpless and unheeded in nursing home beds.

I asked Thomas Buchanan, one of the lawyers for Bull's survivors, if he would appeal the ruling. He declined comment. The judge earlier gagged lawyers in the case, having indicated in court he was unhappy about my original report on the big jury verdict in his court. Perhaps publicity about his huge reduction of damages for the family members of an old dying woman, to the benefit of a corporate nursing home operator, will be more to his liking.

BTW: Michael Morton, I was told, is new board chair of the trade association that lobbies for nursing homes. They give a lot of money to political candidates. We'll keep an eye out.

Tags: , , , , , , ,

From the ArkTimes store

Favorite

Comments (23)

Showing 1-23 of 23

Add a comment

 
Subscribe to this thread:
Showing 1-23 of 23

Add a comment

More by Max Brantley

  • Thank Goodness. The Friday open line

    A week-ending open line. Plus the daily video.
    • Sep 22, 2017
  • McCain says no on Graham-Cassidy

    BREAKING FROM THE AP: Republican Sen. John McCain announces opposition to health care bill, dashing hopes for GOP leaders.
    • Sep 22, 2017
  • 60th opens with panel of Little Rock Nine

    Eight members of the Little Rock Nine, lacking the late Jefferson Thomas, gathered for a panel discussion at the Clinton School for Public Service this morning to open a weekend of activities marking the 60th anniversary of their desegregation of Central High School.
    • Sep 22, 2017
  • More »

Readers also liked…

  • Super Bowl line

    Over to you.
    • Feb 7, 2016
  • Among the last words from Kenneth Williams: 'Finger Lickin' Good Fried Chicken'

    What's purported to be a final-words essay from condemned prisoner Kenneth Williams was distributed today by Deborah Robinson, a freelance journalist in Arkansas.  He reflects on his execution, his victims, reactions of inmates and big servings of fried chicken, which he says are given to all inmates on execution days.
    • Apr 27, 2017
  • Auditor Lea caught not telling the truth

    State Auditor Andrea Lea, who began her tenure in statewide office with a degree of competence unseen in some other Republican counterparts (think Treasurer Dennis Milligan particularly), is becoming more deeply mired in a political scandal.
    • Mar 4, 2016

People who saved…

Most Shared

  • ASU to reap $3.69 million from estate of Jim and Wanda Lee Vaughn

    Arkansas State University announced today plans for spending an expected $3.69 million gift in the final distribution of the estate of Jim and Wanda Lee Vaughn, who died in 2013 and 2015 respectively.
  • Bad health care bill, again

    Wait! Postpone tax reform and everything else for a while longer because the Senate is going to try to repeal and replace the Affordable Care Act one more time before September ends and while it can do it with the votes of only 50 senators.
  • Sex on campus

    Look, the Great Campus Rape Crisis was mainly hype all along. What Vice President Joe Biden described as an epidemic of sexual violence sweeping American college campuses in 2011 was vastly overstated.
  • The inadequate legacy of Brown

    LRSD continues to abdicate its responsibility to educate poor black students.

Most Viewed

  • A Highway 10 traffic solution recommendation

    The Arkansas Department of Transportation has announced its preferences for interchange and other improvements along the Highway 10 corridor between Pleasant Valley Drive and Pleasant Ridge Road.
  • Martha Shoffner, nearing completion of term, back in Arkansas

    Martha Shoffner, who reported to federal prison Nov. 3, 2015 for a 30-month sentence for taking bribes in return for state bond business when she was state treasurer, is nearing the end of her sentence and n
  • ACLU: School crisis 60th no time for celebration. Plus, a message for the governor

    Rita Sklar, executive director of the Arkansas affiliate of the American Civil LIberties Union, has issued a statement taking issue with those who view the 60th anniversary of Central High's limited desegregation thanks to federal court and troops as a "celebration." Plus, my own suggestion for Monday speech-makers.
  • McCain says no on Graham-Cassidy

    BREAKING FROM THE AP: Republican Sen. John McCain announces opposition to health care bill, dashing hopes for GOP leaders.
  • 60th opens with panel of Little Rock Nine

    Eight members of the Little Rock Nine, lacking the late Jefferson Thomas, gathered for a panel discussion at the Clinton School for Public Service this morning to open a weekend of activities marking the 60th anniversary of their desegregation of Central High School.

Most Recent Comments

Blogroll

 

© 2017 Arkansas Times | 201 East Markham, Suite 200, Little Rock, AR 72201
Powered by Foundation