Arguments continue in case over nursing home award reduction | Arkansas Blog

Friday, October 7, 2016

Arguments continue in case over nursing home award reduction

Posted By on Fri, Oct 7, 2016 at 2:46 PM

click to enlarge MICHAEL MORTON: His lawyer seeks dismissal of lawsuit against nursing home owner.
  • MICHAEL MORTON: His lawyer seeks dismissal of lawsuit against nursing home owner.
The attorney for Fort Smith nursing home owner Michael Morton filed several motions in court today to support a motion for exclusion of certain evidence and his motion for a summary judgement in the suit over Judge Mike Maggio's reduction of a $5.2 million jury verdict against a Morton nursing home in Greenbrier to $1 million.

Attorneys for the estate of Martha Bull, the woman whose medical neglect produced the jury verdict, have sued Morton and Baker. The suit alleges they colluded — through campaign contributions to a judicial race by Maggio subsequently aborted — to get Maggio to reduce the judgment. They've admitted the campaign activity, but said it wasn't a quid pro quo.

John Everett, Morton's attorney, argued today that the case should be dismissed.  He said statements by Maggio at his sentencing on a guilty plea to afederal  bribery charge (which he's since tried to take back) are not admissible in the state case over the verdict reduction. He also said an Arkansas Ethics Commission report on the matter is inadmissible hearsay, as are newspaper articles about the case.

Everett wrote:

The foundation for Plaintiffs’ claims against Morton in this case is that Morton bribed Maggio to remit the Bull verdict. The only admissible evidence that Plaintiffs have submitted to prove their claim are certain statements that Maggio made in his plea agreement and at his plea hearing, which he has since attempted to withdraw. Those statements are further discredited by Maggio’s own sworn testimony before the Arkansas Ethics Commission where he stated that he never solicited any money for his campaign, he never talked to Baker about receiving any money from any PACs, he never discussed the Bull verdict with Baker and he never met with or talked to Morton. Plaintiffs’ case is built on a weak foundation that is made up of contradictory statements, speculation and conjecture. Surely such evidence is not sufficient to withstand a properly-supported summary judgment motion. 
Everett also responded to, among others, a challenge to testimony he'd produced by former federal Judge James Moody that was intended to show that a verdict reduction such as Maggio had done could be justified by the facts before him. The plaintiff has until Nov. 7 to respond.

Maggio is not a defendant because he can't be sued for actions he took in his official capacity.

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