Office of the Attorney General News Release Archive

Friday, June 11, 1999


Largest settlement of a nursing home civil penalty case in Texas history

AUSTIN - Texas Attorney General John Cornyn today announced the largest settlement of a nursing home civil penalty case in Texas history. The $180,000 settlement against Arbor Living Centers in Sherman,Texas resulted from a Texas Department of Human Services (TDHS) investigation revealing numerous violations of the Health and Safety Code. The violations resulted in the death of one resident.

"This action sends a clear message that the abuse of the elderly cannot and will not be tolerated. I remain committed to protecting those who can't protect themselves," Cornyn said. "I intend to hold people accountable for their actions and enforce high standards for those who are in the business of caring for others," Cornyn added.

The TDHS investigation of the Arbors Living Centers found that one male resident died after catching himself on fire as he was left unattended to smoke a cigarette. The resident had been placed in the nursing home for physical rehabilitation after being hospitalized. His illness left him weak and confused. The resident also dealt with strong cravings for smoking. The nursing home was aware of this situation and had previously told the resident's family that he would be monitored if the resident wanted to smoke. About two weeks after the resident had been admitted, he asked a nurse for a cigarette. The nurse gave the resident a lighter and some cigarettes and told him to go outside and smoke. TDHS investigations revealed that no one monitored the resident going outside. As a result the resident returned to his room and tried to burn off a restraining vest he was wearing. He caught himself on fire in the process. The resident died three days after the incident.

The settlement with the Arbors Living Centers surpassed another record settlement Attorney General Cornyn announced in April. The settlement was reached with Kenwood Nursing Home in Ducanville, near Dallas. In that settlement, Kenwood Nursing Home agreed to pay $172,500.

Since Attorney General Cornyn took office 25 lawsuits have been filed against nursing homes and16 other lawsuits, that pre-date Cornyn's administration, have been settled.

This suit was handled by Assistant Attorney General Beth Page in the Elder Law and Public Health Division of the Office of the Attorney General.