Pennsylvania Record

Wednesday, February 26, 2020

Nursing home's parent company might face vicarious liability after appeals court decision

By Glenn Minnis | Sep 12, 2017

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HARRISBURG – A Pennsylvania man is set to get a new trial after a three-judge Superior Court panel unanimously overturned a lower court’s decision that dismissed his lawsuit against a nursing home's parent company.

The court ruled on Aug. 8 that a jury should decide if Grane Healthcare, parent company of the Highland Park Care Center in Pittsburgh, should be held vicariously liable in a long-running lawsuit over the treatment of Madeline Scampone.

Richard Scampone’s suit on behalf of Madeline Scampone dates all the way back to 2004, when she suffered a urinary tract infection and subsequent fatal heart attack and he formally filed suit roughly a year later.  

“I think the court ruling essentially picked up where the Supreme and Superior Court left off,” said Robert Daley, of Robert Pierce & Associates, P.C.

“They decided the lower court did not follow the dictates of the Superior Court. What that means on a wider scale is yet to be determined, but for this case that has now been going on for more than a decade things will keep moving.”

In its ruling, the court ruled Grane Healthcare, parent to the Highland Park Care Center where Madeline Scampone was residing, could be found negligent in allowing the facility to be consistently understaffed.

More specifically, the panel ruled that the trial court erred in granting Grane's motion for nonsuit because Scampone presented evidence that Highland Park was understaffed. 

An Allegheny County Court of Common Pleas might now decide the issue while also exploring punitive damages against Highland Park.

Scampone’s initial filing named both as defendants and alleged their shortcomings were directly related to his mom’s death.

The state Supreme Court previously ruled that nursing homes can be held liable under a direct corporate negligence theory.

Back in 2007, an Allegheny Court of Common Pleas judge dismissed all claims against Grane and cleared Highland Park of any punitive damages. 

That verdict was followed three years later by a Superior Court ruling that sided with Scampone.

Highland Park has been ordered to pay a $193,500 verdict.

“I’m not overly surprised by this,” Daley said of the most recent decision. “I thought a mistake was made by the trial court. I suppose what happens here is they will get a trial date rescheduled and what parts of the case are left will be retried.”

Stephen Trzcinski of Wilkes & McHugh in Philadelphia is representing Scampone.

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