Judge rules on eviction in continuing care case involving Rancho Bernardo retirement community

Man can stay pending his appeal

SAN DIEGO - A judge granted a stay of eviction Tuesday to an elderly man who is under a continuing care contract in a Rancho Bernardo retirement community.

Bill Miller, 83, was in court with his attorneys and family. One of Miller's attorneys, James Mangione, said the judge's decision would have “significant ramifications” on continuing care contracts across the state.

Judge Joel Wohfeil had presided over a trial, which found Miller should be evicted from Casa de las Campanas, his home for the past ten years. 

The jury had sided with Casa de las Campanas, saying the facility was within its rights to evict Miller because of concerns for him and other residents' well-being.

At Tuesday's hearing, the judge was asked to overturn the jury’s verdict, which research shows is a rare occurrence in California courts.

The Miller defense team argued the court withheld from the jury some important information. There was dispute over how the law applies to an eviction when a continuing care contract is involved.

As argued by Casa's attorney James Napoli in the jury case, the judge ruled Casa could apply a law to this eviction case, which resulted in a jury verdict in favor of eviction.

Eileen and Bill Miller had lived on the grounds for eight years when Eileen was diagnosed with dementia.  She was moved out of their two bedroom, two bath apartment into a closed ward section of the community for dementia patients.  Her husband of 60 years wanted to spend time with his wife and agreed to a test run of living in the closed unit. 

It didn’t work.

The family says Miller's medications for Parkinsons and the stress of living in the closed ward led to him exhibiting bizarre behavior, such as trying to kiss a sleeping roommate, threatening to kill himself and threatening a staff member.

The behavior was so bizarre, the Casa management evicted Miller. But his family says when he came off the medications and moved back to his original residence, Miller’s behavior improved greatly. 

Because of this improvement his family was fighting to keep him in his current home. It’s because of his bad behavior the Casa wants him out.

Napoli argued at Tuesday's hearing, “It’s time Casa De las Campanas gets to manage its community without this specter hanging over it.” 

Napoli opposed overturning the jury’s verdict and said he didn’t want the eviction to be stopped until an appeal could be heard.  He didn’t see the eviction as a hardship for the elder Miller to visit his wife who would remain in the dementia ward. He noted the family had been involved in opposing the eviction so this “active family got him to court everyday so they can bring him to visit Mrs. Miller.”

Wohfeil agreed, at least in part, and upheld the jury’s decision to evict Miller.

But at the same time the judge said,  Miller "poses no danger to anyone including himself.”

The judge also pointed out, “Mr. Miller can’t be faulted for anything but getting older.”

Wohfeil wrote in his opinion that Miller “would suffer extreme hardship if the stay is not granted pending Defendants appeal of the Judgment.”

So he ruled Casa could not evict Miller until an appeal was heard. He stays at the facility for now.

Read the judge's legal opinion here: http://bit.ly/15tqeLZ

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