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Nursing Home Abuse Jury Awards $2,000,000 Verdict

MetroWest Daily News : Jury awards $2M to Marlborough woman

A jury on Tuesday awarded an 87-year-old Marlborough woman more than $2 million after finding she was sexually assaulted at a local nursing home in 2011.

The verdict in favor of Marie Claire Courchaine is the highest in a nursing home case in Massachusetts state history, her attorney David Hoey said.

“I feel that the jury got it right,” Hoey said of the decision against Kindred Healthcare Inc., former owner of Bolton Manor Nursing and Rehabilitation Center. “And it’s not about the money. It’s about the dignity and if you look at dignity, the definition of dignity, it’s about self-worth and respect and this verdict does exactly that.”

The Middlesex Superior Court jury, after a weeklong civil trial, found Kindred negligent and determined the company’s negligence caused Courchaine injury or harm.

Hoey said a certified nursing assistant at the home sexually assaulted Courchaine, who suffers from dementia and Huntington’s disease, once in July 2011.

Courchaine’s independent nurse practitioner noticed vaginal trauma and sent her to a hospital emergency room. The hospital reported the assault to police, Hoey said.

An investigation led to the abuser, who has not been charged criminally, he said.

Kindred, which has since sold the nursing home to National HealthCare Associates Inc., disputed the claims.

“Resident care and safety is Kindred’s number one concern,” the company said in a statement attorney Damon Seligson issued Tuesday. “At the time we learned of the allegations we conducted a thorough investigation and do not believe the assault occurred.

“In addition,” the company said, “the incident was investigated by the Department of Public Health and the police and they did not substantiate that an assault occurred. In light of this, we are troubled with this award.”

Hoey said the jury’s verdict, and $2.014 million award, confirmed the sexual assault allegations.

Unlike in a criminal case when proof “beyond a reasonable doubt” is required, the standard of proof in a civil case is only “more likely than not,” Hoey said.

“Our client has dementia so she can’t tell you happened, so it’s hard to criminally prosecute someone when the victim can’t tell you what happened,” he said.

Hoey said Kindred suspended the aide who abused Courchaine.

The aide testified at the trial, as did other former employees of the nursing home, an OB/GYN doctor and expert witness Ann Burgess, a forensic nursing professor who co-founded one of the first hospital-based crisis intervention programs for rape victims.

Hoey said he also entered into evidence emergency room records that confirmed Courchaine’s sexual trauma.

The great-grandmother, a lifelong Marlborough resident, lived at Bolton Manor for seven years, from 2004 until she was assaulted, Hoey said.

Her late husband of 67 years, Roger, died last year but was a familiar face at the home.

“He visited her every day,” Hoey said. Hoey said her family approved the use of her name and photo in publicizing the verdict.

Bolton Manor is now known as The Reservoir Center under its new owner, who declined to comment on the case but made assurances Tuesday that the home provides quality care.

Courchaine is now living at another nursing home, but Hoey said the $2 million will allow her family to take her out of the institution and pay for the skilled care she needs.