Lake Forest, CA teenager Kevin Barr hasn’t had it easy. Kevin was born 25 weeks premature, and suffered throughout his life from a seizure disorder as well as cerebral palsy.
Kevin’s parents Mark and Michele Barr sought out the best care in their area for Kevin. They brought him to Lonika’s Home, Inc., a small intermediate care facility located in Mission Viejo. Lonika’s Home advertised around-the-clock care from a trained staff, and their facility was located just a 10-minute drive from the Barrs’ house.
On the evening of February 7th, 2012, like any other night at Lonika’s Home, Kevin’s caretaker was supposed to give Kevin his anti-seizure medication. But she didn’t. She forgot.
At 3:30am the following morning, the caretaker found Kevin unresponsive in his bed. She should have called 911 immediately and began the facility’s emergency response procedure. But she didn’t.
Kevin’s caretaker waited until 4:19am—nearly an hour later—before calling for help. On the phone with the 911 operator, the caretaker was instructed to perform CPR on Kevin until paramedics arrived. But she couldn’t. The caretaker was not trained in CPR or emergency response, and she did not attempt it.
When the paramedics finally arrived at Lonika’s Home, they found the caretaker giving baths to two of the facilities’ other patients. They questioned her about Kevin’s condition, and she responded that he had “some immune thing.” By this point, Kevin had already passed away in his bed.
Mark and Michele Bar launched a lawsuit against Lonika’s Home for the outrageous and deadly mistreatment their son received. “We’d like to see laws to make these homes safer,” Michele said. “We don’t want this to happen to other families.”
Unfortunately, California is one of 35 states that currently have a law in place capping the verdicts of medical malpractice lawsuits. This law effectively states that state legislators do not trust juries enough to make their own decisions about the cases they decide on. California’s cap is $250,000.
$250,000 would be a woefully inadequate compensation for this family’s damages, and would do little in the way of sending a strong message to Lonika’s Home and similar care facilities that hire untrained staff.
However, because Mark and Michele were able to demonstrate to the jury that Lonika’s Home committed fraud when they promised them that Kevin’s caretaker’s would be competent and trained, the care facility was not able to hide behind the $250,000 cap. The jury awarded Mark and Michele their full damages.
In the wake of this terrible tragedy, Kevin’s family won a big victory against care facilities that cut corners. “This shows that people with disabilities matter, and negligence won’t be tolerated,” Mark said.
Sources: “Jury Awards $10M to Family of Teen Who Died at California Facility,” Insurance Journal, 22 June 2015.
Puente, Kelly, “Verdict: $10 million to family of disabled teen who died at a care facility in Mission Viejo,” The Orange County Register, 21 July 2015.
Puente, Kelly, “’We finally got justice’: Jury awards $5.7 million in teen’s death at Mission Viejo care facility,” The Orange County Register, 25 June 2015.