Facility settles lawsuit in food cart death

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A California long-term care facility agreed to settle a wrongful death lawsuit after family members were awarded $135,000 in a case involving a resident hit by a food cart. A settlement was reached while the provider appealed the judgment, leading to the deal.

Representatives of Vista Healthcare Center in San Diego denied wrongdoing, and that standard practice was ever that two people were needed to move the cart, which measured 70 inches high by 23 inches wide and 30 inches deep.

They also denied that facility representatives had been coached to make a bogus announcement over a public address system to alert staff when health officials were in the building, as a former receptionist testified at trial.

Margaret Kasper was a 94-year-old resident at Vista when a dining cart hit her, leading to a broken hip, surgery and death five days later.

Vista attorney Tom M. Allen told McKnight's the facility's director of nursing “expressly denied” that the facility was engaged in the practice described by the receptionist. Allen is a partner at Lewis, Brisbois, Bisgaard & Smith LLP.

“There is no standard requiring two persons to transport a cart. The industry standard is one person, as Vista did it before the accident,” Allen added in an email to
McKnight's.

He said that experts with “150 years of collective experience” testified, and none had seen an instance of an accident caused by having one person push a cart.

Kasper's family filed a wrongful death lawsuit in March 2011 in San Diego County Superior Court. The trial began Feb. 4, 2014 and on Feb. 26, the jury found in favor of the plaintiffs. A judgment gave the family $35,000 for wrongful death and $100,000 for elder abuse, according to a local ABC news report. Attorney fees of more than $600,000, a disputed amount, also were part of the award.