Jury awards parents of dead woman $7.7 million in wrongful death case

After five days of deliberation, a San Luis Obispo County jury awarded $7.7 million to the parents of a mentally ill woman who died during a struggle with her caregivers.

The award is significantly more than the $5 million the plaintiffs, Kathleen Reed and Alexander Arcady, had requested during the trial.

The case involved the death of 33-year-old Lauren Arcady, an Atascadero High School graduate, who was developmentally disabled and suffering from schizophrenia. After five years of living in a state-operated facility for people with mental disabilities, she moved into her own residence in Santa Maria. To accommodate that, Genesis Developmental Services was hired to provide caregivers.

On June 26, 2010, Arcady became upset with the caregivers after one of them took photos of her.  After she stormed into her room, the caregivers followed Arcady, who had a history of hurting herself.

Plaintiff attorney James Murphy told a jury the caregivers then restrained Arcady in a dangerous prone position, causing her to suffocate.  The caregivers , who had not been trained for CPR, did not try to resuscitate her, he said.

Attorneys for Genesis, now known as Novelles Developmental Services based in Grover Beach and Santa Maria, claimed Arcady died from a heart condition fueled by large doses of prescription drugs combined with an adrenaline rush.

No criminal charges were ever filed against the caregivers.

Neither Murphy nor Eric Emanuels, an attorney for Novelles, could be reached for comment.

The verdict arrived almost a year to the date after another jury awarded parents in San Luis Obispo $74 million. In that case, which ended in a verdict April 20, 2012, Andrew and Jennifer Blunt sued physician Kurt Haupt after a botched delivery left their daughter, Sophia, with cerebral palsy.