Resident falls multiple times in nursing home and suffers stroke during emergency evacuation. $32M. Sonoma County.


A deaf 88-year-old woman with dementia falls numerous times, suffers humerus fracture and is transported improperly during an evacuation for a wildfire while suspected of having a stroke.

The Case

  • Case Name: Cooley v. Life Care Services, LLC, et al.
  • Court and Case Number: Sonoma County Superior Court / SCV-267750
  • Date of Verdict or Judgment: Wednesday, September 20, 2023
  • Date Action was Filed: Thursday, January 28, 2021
  • Type of Case: Elder Abuse, Negligence
  • Judge or Arbitrator(s): Hon. Patrick Broderick
  • Plaintiffs:
    Mary Joann Cooley
  • Defendants:
    Life Care Services, LLC (operator of Arbol Residences)
    HCP Santa Rosa OpCo CA, LLC (Licensee for Arbol from June 2019 to May 2020. Owned by Healthpeak.)
    LCS Santa Rosa, LLC (Licensee for Arbol from May 2020 going forward. Owned by Life Care Services, LLC.)
    Mariele Soriano (Executive director of Arbol)
  • Type of Result: Jury Verdict

The Result

  • Gross Verdict or Award: $32,084,277
  • Award as to each Defendant:

    $10,084,777 for economic and non-economic damages as to all defendants.

    $22,000,000 in punitive damages as to Life Care Services, LLC.


  • Contributory/Comparative Negligence: None.
  • Economic Damages:


  • Non-Economic Damages:


  • Punitive Damages:

    Life Care Services, LLC: $22,000,000


  • Trial or Arbitration Time: 4 weeks
  • Jury Deliberation Time: Approximately 5 hours

The Attorneys

  • Attorney for the Plaintiff:

    Milanfar Law Firm by Shahrad Milanfar and Donavon Sawyer, Walnut Creek.

  • Attorney for the Defendant:

    Lewis Brisbois Bisgaard & Smith LLP by Reuben Jacobson and Jonathan Rose, Walnut Creek.

The Experts

  • Plaintiff’s Medical Expert(s):

    Scott Bolhack, M.D., medical services.

    Louella Burgos, RN, medical services.

  • Defendant's Medical Expert(s):

    Gary Steinke, M.D., medical services.

    Julie Baird, RN, medical services.

  • Plaintiff's Technical Expert(s):

    Craig Enos, economics.

  • Defendant's Technical Expert(s):


Facts and Background

  • Facts and Background:

    Plaintiff, an 88-year-old woman, was a dependent and disabled elder with dementia, profound hearing loss, and high fall risk, who began residing at Arbol Residences, an assisted living facility in 2016. Defendants Life Care Services began running the facility in June 2019. Between June 2019 and September 2020 plaintiff suffered between 20 and 25 falls while in defendants’ care. Defendants did not properly address each fall to mitigate the risk or eliminate future falls.

    In October 2019, Arbol Residences had to be evacuated due to the Kincade fire. Defendants evacuated plaintiff to a facility 80 miles south of Santa Rosa where she was housed, but unsupervised, with 44 other residents. In a seven-hour period she suffered two unwitnessed falls. She fractured her left arm during the second unwitnessed fall. Defendants were unable to identify who was in the room with the residents during the two falls. After being returned from the emergency room, defendants failed to pick up her pain medication. She was not given pain medication for 15 hours after returning to defendants’ care.

    At 10:30 p.m., the staff at the interim facility put plaintiff in a non-medical transport and sent her 80 miles north to Santa Rosa Memorial Hospital. A doctor at Santa Rosa Memorial ER and a nurse were so concerned about this reckless act that they contacted defendants’ employee to express their concern. They also contacted Adult Protective Services.

    When plaintiff was transported to Santa Rosa Memorial with a fresh humerus bone fracture, she was without any medication, without her hearing aids or a safe discharge plan. Defendants did not know who transferred her to the transport vehicle and released her for the ride 80 miles north toward the wildfire that was still raging. Defendants failed to properly track her after the initial transfer. She was transferred approximately seven times after that and was without her hearing aids for 11 days. When transferring plaintiff 80 miles north, defendants’ employee believed that plaintiff was suffering from a stroke. Despite this concern, she was not sent to the closest trauma center.

  • Plaintiff's Contentions:

    The negligent actions of defendants caused plaintiff to suffer a significant decline during the last years of her life. The falls and defendants’ actions during the wildfire constituted elder abuse, neglect, and abandonment of a dependent elder. Defendants were liable for compensatory damages and punitive damages.

    That despite significant risks and probability of a wildfire, defendants were ill-prepared for that danger. They did not have a proper disaster evacuation plan; they had not properly trained their employees for natural disaster evacuations and had not made proper agreements with other facilities to help them transfer residents in case of a natural disaster.

  • Defendant's Contentions:

    Defense contended that they provided appropriate care and that they deserved a defense verdict. This was maintained through the punitive damages phase.

Injuries and Other Damages

  • Physical Injuries claimed by Plaintiff:

    Elder Abuse, neglect, abandonment, repeated falls with humerus fracture. Denial of medication and hearing aids, which led to significant physical and cognitive decline.

Special Damages

  • Special Damages Claimed - Past Medical: 0
  • Special Damages Claimed - Future Medical: 0
  • Special Damages Claimed - Past Lost Earnings: 0
  • Special Damages Claimed - Future Lost Earnings: 0