HealthLawProf Blog

Editor: Katharine Van Tassel
Concordia University School of Law

Saturday, September 8, 2007

New Orleans Nursing Home Owners Aquitted

TalkLeft has a brief story on the acquittal of the Manganos, the New Orleans nursing home owners who had been charged with negligent homicide in the deaths of patients at their nursing home.  The Washington Post provides some further background:

On Friday night, after four hours of deliberations, a jury acquitted the Manganos of negligent homicide, charges that could have put them in prison for life. The case raised broader questions about who, if anyone, deserves to be punished for the deaths in Katrina's deadly flooding.

Though numerous government agencies have been faulted for the disaster, the Manganos were the first and only people to be tried in a criminal court for any of the countless mistakes of planning that led to 1,800 deaths in the flooding that followed the storm late in the summer of 2005. . . . .

"I went back and forth for sure, but when it came down to it, the Manganos were not criminals," the juror, Kim Maxwell, 46, a secretary at a power plant, said later. "I just wanted to hug them." . . .

By all accounts, the Manganos' nursing home offered good care to its residents before the storm.

Mabel, the administrator, sometimes helped bathe and dress the residents; Sal, in charge of maintenance, stopped to spoon-feed those who could not feed themselves. Their son and daughter-in-law helped out.

Having been through Hurricane Betsy in 1965, the Manganos also believed that their nursing home had been built on a high spot and was less vulnerable to flooding.

The Manganos' fears for residents' safety during an evacuation were well-founded, too, according to expert witnesses who testified that nursing homes often suffer fatalities when evacuated.

The trial has been fraught with tears and bitterness, and the relatives of the dead and the Manganos have relived the tragedy.

"They killed 35 people," Joy Lewis, whose mother died in the flooding, said after closing arguments. She added that while she does not necessarily think the Manganos should go to jail, "they should pay" and the specific form would be up to God. "When they put their heads on their pillow at night," she said, "they'll pay."

NPR has additional coverage of the trial here and here.

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