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Court Vacates Award Against Nursing Home

DAYTONA BEACH (CN) - A Florida appeals court vacated and remanded $1.5 million in damages awarded to a man who was falsely accused of inappropriately kissing his elderly mother after he refused to hand over evidence that nursing home employees neglected his mother's foot wound.

Plaintiff Lawrence Destefano successfully sued the Sunbelt Healthcare and Subacute Center, owned by Rollins Bedford Corp., for libel, slander, civil conspiracy and battery.

He was awarded $1 million in compensatory damages and $1 million in punitive damages, but a jury cut his compensatory damages in half, finding that Destefano had been partially responsible for the damage because he "self-published" the defamatory statements by writing them on a sign that he used to picket in front of Rollins.

The appellate court reversed, based on the murky questions presented to the jury. "The special verdict form was at best confusing and, at worst, erroneous," Judge Palmer wrote. Remanded. See ruling.

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