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Skilled Healthcare Group agrees to settle nursing home lawsuit

Nursing home operator Skilled Healthcare Group Inc. has agreed to a $50-million settlement of a class-action lawsuit, a far cry from the more than $670 million a jury had previously ordered it to pay.

A Humboldt County Superior Court jury had found the healthcare company liable for understaffing its 22 assisted-living facilities in California. State law requires nursing homes to maintain 3.2 nursing hours per patient per day — something the jury said Skilled Healthcare failed to do.

The suit against Skilled Healthcare, based in Foothill Ranch, had been brought by patients and their families. The nursing home operator, which maintained that its facilities had been appropriately staffed, had filed an appeal of the July verdict.

The settlement, in which Skilled Healthcare admitted no wrongdoing, was reached Tuesday and must be approved by the Humboldt County Superior Court.

Skilled Healthcare said in a statement that it would deposit $50 million into escrow accounts to cover the settlement payments.

The company said the jury's verdict amount would have more than exhausted the company's credit lines and insurance policies.