Developmentally Disabled New Mexico Rape Victim Awarded $54M

A developmentally disabled New Mexico man who lived in a group home run by ResCare, Inc. was awarded $54 million after he was raped by one of the home's employees. Nearly $50 million of the award constituted punitive damages as the home failed to run any background checks on the employee.

Nursing home negligence

This New Mexico nursing home negligence case has garnered national attention. According to news reports, 48 year old Larry Selk was a resident of a group home in Roswell, New Mexico in May of 2004. Run by Louisville, Kentucky-based ResCare, Inc., the home had continual problems with under staffing, insufficient staffing, inadequately trained staff and inadequate documentation – and this case was no exception.

ResCare hired a male caregiver without performing a background check first. The man had been fired from previous group homes for inappropriate behavior with residents. After only four days at ResCare, he raped Selk, who is unable to speak and could not call for help. When a nurse noticed that Selk was bleeding rectally, a sexual assault specialist was called and verified that Selk had been raped by the man – who has since disappeared. His family hired a New Mexico nursing home abuse attorney and filed a lawsuit against the home for negligence.

Unorthodox strategy moves jury

The family's personal injury attorney was able to prove to a jury that the company had a history of mis-management and that they failed to consider reasonable settlement offers. However, he also wanted to show the jury how helpless Selk must have felt during the ordeal because he could not speak, so he sang them a Sarah McLaughlin song with the lyrics, “We are screaming inside, but we cannot be heard.” Although that might seem unorthodox, and even the attorney says that he's never done that in court, his strategy worked. The jury awarded Selk over $54 million – of which nearly $50 million constituted punitive damages. The money will be managed by his sister and used to take care of Selk for the rest of his life.

Hiring the right attorney

This case shows how important it is to hire the right attorney. While not all lawyers sing to juries, good lawyers know how to get their points across and make juries truly understand what an injured victim has endured. If you or a loved one has been injured in a nursing home due to neglect, negligence or elder abuse, contact an experienced nursing home abuse lawyer in your state to discuss your situation and evaluate your options.

The foregoing article has been prepared by an attorney who is a regular contributor to FreeAdvice, and is now undergoing review by the site's editorial staff.