Five Star finalizes $7.3 million settlement

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Five Star Quality Care Inc. has paid a $7.3 million settlement related to a lawsuit from the estate of a former resident of one of its communities, the company announced Feb. 24 in a filing with the U.S. Securities and Exchange Commission. The settlement occurred Feb. 23, but Five Star indicated that legal issues associated with the case may not be over.

The estate of Doris L. Cote, a deceased former resident of The Forum at Desert Harbor, Peoria, AZ, had sued the company in July 2012, alleging “pain and suffering as a result of improper treatment constituting violations of the Arizona Adult Protective Services Act and wrongful death,” Five Star said in a June 3, 2015, SEC filing.

Cote reportedly had become a resident at the senior living community in November 2011 while recuperating from septic arthritis in her shoulder. Catherine Cote, representing the estate, maintained that her mother, 86 at the time of her death, developed a bedsore that led to a Methicillin-resistant Staphylococcus aureus infection after staff members ignored proper care procedures. Catherine Cote also said that while living at the community, her mother became dehydrated, was overmedicated and malnourished and fell several times, and that staff members falsified records to hide other issues, such as weight loss. Doris Cote went to another facility in January 2012 but subsequently was hospitalized and died of pneumonia that June.

In May 2015, a jury found in Five Star's favor in regards to the wrongful death claim. It awarded damages of approximately $19.2 million to Cote's estate, however — $2.5 million for pain and suffering and the remainder for punitive damages. Five Star and the plaintiff subsequently agreed that the company would pay $7.3 million.

“The company did not admit to, and specifically denied, any and all liability, wrongdoing, responsibility or fault relating to the claims,” Five Star noted in its Feb. 24 filing.

The company's liability insurer has agreed to reimburse Five Star for $3 million of the settlement amount, Five Star stated, adding that the company believes it is owed more, is seeking additional payments and has not ruled out litigation to obtain them.

The Forum at Desert Harbor offers independent living and assisted living as well as skilled nursing and rehabilitation.

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