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Skilled Healthcare Appeals Court Order on Staffing

Skilled Healthcare Group Inc. said it will appeal a court order requiring it to comply with California’s minimum staffing requirements at its nursing homes after failing to persuade a judge to declare a mistrial.

Skilled Healthcare, based in Foothill Ranch, California, was found liable July 6 by a Humboldt County jury for improperly staffing 22 facilities in the state. The $677 million verdict was the largest jury award in the U.S. this year, according to data compiled by Bloomberg News.

“Settlement discussions in the case are ongoing,” Skilled Healthcare said in a statement Aug. 27. No final judgment has been rendered in the case. The company said that its nursing facilities are properly staffed.

Humboldt County Superior Court Judge W. Bruce Watson, in an order filed Aug. 27, denied a motion for a mistrial, saying said Skilled Healthcare failed to establish juror misconduct in the case.

Skilled Healthcare had said a juror didn’t disclose before trial that she had worked for the county Coroner’s Office and had handled at least one corpse from one of the company’s facilities. The juror came to know the daughter of the deceased, one of the plaintiffs in the case, the company said.

Skilled Healthcare fell 42 cents, or 13 percent, to $2.77 Aug. 27 in New York Stock Exchange composite trading. The shares, which dropped another 27 cents today before regular U.S. trading, have declined by more than half since the verdict was reported.

W. Timothy Needham, an attorney for the plaintiffs, didn’t immediately return a call before regular business hours seeking comment.

The case is Lavender v. Skilled Healthcare Group, DR060264, Superior Court, Humboldt County, California (Eureka).

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