YOU MESSED WITH THE WRONG MARINE
How elder abuse litigation attorney Kimberly Valentine transcended a tough
upbringing to become a voice for the vulnerable
INTERVIEW BY ERIK LUNDEGAARD
Q: You hung a shingle in 2012. What
made you take that step?
A: I do elder abuse litigation and I’m very
selective about the cases I take.
Q: Selective how?
A: The ideal case for me is where I can
develop this fantastic relationship with a
caring family who did everything they could
do to provide for the best interest of their—
usually—parent. They trusted that the right
thing was going to happen, and the right
thing did not happen, and their family
member ended up being neglected.
Honestly? I usually take them if I feel the
defendants are just bad people. If I were
to make a list of my key selection criteria,
number one is, “Is the defendant bad?” and
number two is, “Are the plaintiffs great?”
Because even if I have great plaintiffs, if
the defendants are good people who just
had a bad day, that’s not going to be a
seven-figure case in the wrongful death of
an 89- or 90-year-old person. I try to have
a practice where what I’m doing is fulfilling
the principles we stand for.
Q: Which are?
A: We’re trying to get rid of the bad apples.
In the world of elder care, those bad apples
are going to be the factor that we all have
to take into consideration as we get older.
Q: So what causes bad elder care? Is it
A: Yes, it’s profit-driven. Every defendant
in my industry would disagree, but yeah,
it 100 percent is. There is a way to provide
good care. There are companies doing
that. But their profit margin is less because
they understand that in order to provide
good care, you need to have qualified,
trained and sufficient staff to meet the
needs of the residents.
Unfortunately, some of the bigger
companies work very much on staffing
grids and staffing ratios where they’re not
taking into consideration the acuity of the
patients. There are some companies out
there that market for the highest acuity
patients—the sickest of the sick—but they
staff the facility at the same level as other
facilities. The stuff we see is pretty awful.
Q: Is there a case that stands out as
A: Almost every one of my cases fits that
bill. I have a current case that is against a
very large company. That’s the other thing:
The parent corporation, which is generally
a publicly traded company, creates layers
between itself and the facilities; they can
then claim that they had nothing to do
with the running of the facility. Whenever
I’m dealing with a corporate defendant, I
spend 70 percent of the case arguing and
fighting over the corporate portion of it—as
opposed to the factual portion of what
happens on a day-to-day basis.
This case is one of the examples where
the company markets for the highest
acuity patients, yet they’re providing a
1-to- 10 staffing ratio for [certified nursing
assistants]. The staff starts complaining,
“This is not working, we can’t meet the
needs of these residents.” In the meantime,
because new laws passed, they’re now
having to report what their in-house,
acquired bed sores are. They have to report
these to the state if they go above a certain