Settlement in landmark Channing House case

Sally Herriot reaches settlement with senior-care facility

Sally Herriot, a 91-year-old Palo Alto woman who sued Channing House senior community for the right to remain in her private apartment rather than being moved to assisted living, has reached a settlement with the senior-care facility, according to court papers.

Under the settlement agreement, Herriot will move out of her independent-living unit no later than June 1.

She will pay all costs associated with moving and at her new living accommodations outside of the care facility.

The order was signed March 18 by U.S. District Court Judge Jeremy Fogel in San Jose.

In August 2006, Channing House officials sought to move Herriot from her apartment to assisted living, where she would share a hospital-like room with another patient. Channing House officials said she could no longer care for herself without assistance.

But Herriot had hired private caregivers at no expense to Channing House so that she could remain in her comfortable apartment and did not want to be removed from her surroundings.

She filed a potentially landmark housing-discrimination case in January 2007, challenging whether elderly people can be evicted from their apartments against their will if they become disabled or require daily-living assistance.

Herriot's attorneys claimed such removal, although contractual, was not legal because it violated the Americans with Disabilities Act against eviction because of disability.

If successful, the suit could have turned the operational model for continuing-care retirement communities upside down.

Many senior-living centers make decisions unilaterally about when someone needs to move from their independent quarters to an "assisted living" setup.

The lawsuit was litigated by attorneys from Relman, Dane & Colfax, a civil-rights law firm based in Washington, D.C., the Fair Housing Law Project Law Foundation of Silicon Valley and AARP Foundation Litigation.

But Fogel ruled against Herriot in January 2008. California law does not allow Channing House to keep her in the independent-living apartment because she is not independent, he said.

Fogel also upheld the contract between Herriot and Channing House that gave facility officials the right to move her. Herriot appealed the decision in March 2009.

Once Herriot has moved out, Channing House is not obligated to provide for her care.

Herriot could move into Channing House's skilled-nursing care in the future if her personal physician deems it medically necessary and in her best interest, according to the settlement. Channing House would not charge her an entrance fee if she does enter the skilled-nursing facility.


Herriot's attorneys and her son did not return phone calls seeking comment.

Carl Braginsky, Channing House executive director, said he is precluded by the agreement from speaking about the case.

"Sally Herriot and Channing House have amicably resolved the litigation between them after the federal district court entered summary judgment in favor of Channing House, and prior to a hearing on the appeal taken by Mrs. Herriot," he said, quoting a paragraph stipulated as the only public statement allowed by the settlement.

"It is a confidential agreement," he said.


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Posted by rem
a resident of Adobe-Meadow
on May 13, 2010 at 11:20 am

This "contract" and "ruling" is a good reason why for the last forty years we have not put my Mother/Grandmother/Grandfater and two Great Aunt in a "independent-living unit" or so called senior community.

You give up ALL CONTROL plus you "sign' their or your life AWAY.....

They take your money but give you nothing in return. "Like your INDEPENDANCEs....

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Posted by Tara Stein
a resident of Midtown
on May 13, 2010 at 11:38 am

I understand the legal basis of the decision, but shame on Channing House. If Herriot was paying for her own caretaker and wanted to live out the few remaining years of her life with her friends and in her "comfortable" apartment, there was no harm done to Channing House. Shame on them.

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Posted by Crescent Park Dad
a resident of Crescent Park
on May 13, 2010 at 12:02 pm

I have no doubt that it is all about the Benjamins. I'm sure Channing House's economic model depends upon moving patients into their "care facility" ... which provides for government and insurance revenue streams. And then they get to resell the condo space and bring in a new revenue stream to the company.

We may not like that, but it is reasonable to assume that their financial operations are based upon this premise. And it may be true that one-exception will not bring down their financial model - but I'm guessing that once they give one exception, more requests will follow and then their financial model will be at-risk.

I have no knowledge of how they work - just guessing here...

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Posted by commonsense
a resident of Adobe-Meadow
on May 13, 2010 at 12:11 pm

Channing house is a not-for-profit operation so the argument above does not hold. Furthermore, the contract that all residents sign when they move in likely says they must move to assisted living when they can no longer take care of themselves. Nobody is forced to sign that contract, only those that CHOOSE to live there. Channing House is a huge success story in the not-for-profit world. This individual tried to change the rules to favor her and she lost.

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Posted by Anon.
a resident of Crescent Park
on May 13, 2010 at 12:52 pm

This is a very interesting case and discussion. I can't really decide what is right and what is wrong because there are a lot of factors involved that people do not realize, and the realities of living in a place like this.

It's always the evil retirement home managers ... and sometimes it really is, but then again, perhaps things are not so simple. How much inconvenience and bother is it to have people always going up and down and in and out of the building to service this woman in her apartment? I don't know. I sympathize with her and I bet life is pretty good for an older person living in Channing House so close to downtown, and the bus routes and other services. But there comes a time when when everyone is going to age.

Every phase of life now is handled by experts, legalities, precedents .. that none of us really realize because we are so busy living life we don't have time to think about whatever it is. Being handicapped, getting old, getting Alzheimers, going blind, whatever it is, someone has thought about how to make money from providing services for it, and those services can only be profitably under specific conditions.

No one teaches us about this stuff and all the other things in life in an school, you just have to be "lucky" enough to hear about this in the normal course of your life or be rich enough to hire experts to make your life comfortable for you.

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Posted by Resident
a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on May 13, 2010 at 1:09 pm

This is going back sometime and in a different state, but I think it is worth sharing.

My grandmother decided to move into a retirement home in an independent living arrangement. She chose this particular home as she had family already living there and felt that this would be a good choice for the time she was still independent. However, she did not want to stay there when the time came for her to need more assistance, or if she survived her family already living there. Consequently, she made those wishes known at the time to the facility and to her family, and as a result the contract she signed was only until such time as she decided to move elsewhere. There was also something written into the contract in regards of money, but I was never party to that arrangement.

The point is that when it became necessary for her to need more care, a new facility was found nearer one of her children and one much more able to meet her needs at that time. The move was mutually acceptable to all parties and since her childrens' situations had altered during the time she was first in this home, choosing an assisted living facility at the time she needed it was much better than choosing one facility with both options for when it was needed.

Therefore, I think it is important to look into any contracts signed as to what you are actually agreeing to. I think it makes sense to look on an independent facility as suitable for while you are still independent and then be able to reassess where you want to live as and when the time comes as a different decision entirely.

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Posted by knows about the topic
a resident of Duveneck/St. Francis
on May 13, 2010 at 1:30 pm

1 - I wonder if there is/could potentially be some liability on the part of Channing House that causes them to have certain legal agreements - that might have been an issue with bringing in outside people for care while in the independent apartment section - who would be liable if something went wrong with that care. This IS sue-happy California, after all.

2 - I happen to know a "CCRC" = Continuing Care Retirement Community for the uninitiated, on the east coast that is outstanding, according to my relative who has lived there for years. Her husband lived his final years there, and they were fully satisfied with his care. Interestingly, this community was started by two California women (who lived there themselves and are both now deceased, I believe). So - there ARE some successful models out there for a range of care. BTW I have stayed at the facility myself when I have visited, in a guest room and also in a couple of the apartments (independent living). It wasn't unpleasant at all and I could see the management and operations of the place myself.

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Posted by Observer
a resident of another community
on May 13, 2010 at 2:43 pm

Channing House has a license from the State that requires them to only admit or allow to remain individuals that need minimal assistance for day to day living. She required more assistance than state law allows for her be qualified to live in an independent living apartment. It does not matter who pays for the assistance, it only matters that Ms. Herrior needed assistance. Channing House's license was at stake. Note that the judge's ruling was that state law prohibited Channing House from allowing Ms. Herriot to remain. Her lawyers wanted to change the law, and Channing House was caught in the middle.

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Posted by knows about the topic
a resident of Duveneck/St. Francis
on May 13, 2010 at 2:58 pm

Thank you Observer for your excellent explanation.

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Posted by Crescent Park Dad
a resident of Crescent Park
on May 13, 2010 at 6:53 pm

It doesn't matter if CH is a non-profit or not. Non-profit means that they don't pay dividends, etc. But they are entitled to make a limited profit on an annual basis.

The way most of these type of organizations survive is by the turnover on the "living units". Every time a living unit comes up for sale, that brings a new infusion of cash...similar to when someone joins a country club, they pay an initiation fee. Just like clubs, the organization either loses or barely makes a profit on the monthly fees. It's the turnover on the living spaces that provides the cash to backfill any losses or fund major budget expenses such as remodeling, repair and so on.

This model is not criminal or's just a glimpse as to how these types of organizations run their business from year to year...

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Posted by Kathy
a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on May 13, 2010 at 9:38 pm

I (for one) appreciate the many thoughtful and sightful comments to this situation. Since many of us are (or will be soon) facing similar predicaments, the information offered by those who took the time to write is most welcome.

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Posted by oldertoo
a resident of Greenmeadow
on May 14, 2010 at 8:44 am

Cresent Park Dad -- that's a scary business model because it is in the interest of the business that residents not live too long. It would be interesting to hear from more people who have direct experiences with the senior care centers. I have to think that most are satisfied or there would be an outpouring of criticism. Nothing can be completely perfect, there will be some glitches, that is understandable.

Still, I think this story shows that you can become very vulnerable when you no longer have the say over your own care. That small hospital room looked awful and depressing. What about medical procedures and medications? Do the elderly in these care facilities also forced to comply?

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Posted by laura
a resident of Midtown
on May 14, 2010 at 9:18 am

The solution is don't get old!! No, seriously - have your children or yourself read the contract carefully. As a nurse who worked many years in long term care I can tell you nursing homes (the next step) are notorious for kicking out residents who spend down their money.

1 person likes this
Posted by PA resident
a resident of Crescent Park
on May 14, 2010 at 2:53 pm

Assisted Living at Channing House is worse than the setting in many convalescent hospitals. You share a room that is basically a hospital room. Channing House needs to make a change here. They should visit other assisted living facilities that are more like an apartment. My husband & I would not consider Channing House because of their assisted living quarters.

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Posted by Jeanie Smith
a resident of Evergreen Park
on May 14, 2010 at 5:20 pm

I read of this case's resolution with some interest, as I always felt it was an unfortunate case. My parents lived in Channing House for over 13 years, and I know many of the residents.

I did not intend to reply to this thread until I read the last one by PA resident. You couldn't be more wrong about the quality of care at Channing House. You may not have liked the look of the rooms, but they're clean and well-kept, and the nursing staff is caring and excellent.

My mother became senile in her last years, and was moved to Assisted Living for her and my dad's benefit. I know beyond a doubt that her life was better (and my dad's too) because of the wonderful care she received. My father was able to see her all the time, and yet live fully without the stress of trying to do all her care himself. They continued to have meals together, long visits, sitting with music on the patio, etc. I cannot say strongly enough that all of my family was SO thankful for the excellent care given to her.

After she died, my dad had several health incidents-- he was able to "check himself in" to the Assisted Living wing while he was mending, and for one incident in particular I do believe that the nursing staff at Channing literally brought him back to full recovery. On other occasions, if he chose not to stay on the second floor, nurses would come to his apartment regularly to take his vitals and make sure he was okay.

Channing House always gets high marks on any outside evaluation of its services and care. It's one of the few places left that also serves three meals a day. It's also a rare facility for having Independent Living, Assisted Living, AND full Nursing Care on its premises. When my mother was nearing the end, she was moved into Nursing Care and Hospice was started as well. The team that cared for her have my utmost respect and gratitude for the respectful, thorough, and attentive treatment she received.

I was against my parents moving in to Channing House at first. Once they were in, and I observed the high quality of the facility first-hand, I was so grateful to them for having made that choice, which was a great gift to themselves as well as their children. They were quite, quite happy there-- leading active, full lives, without having to worry about medical care-- or linens, or housecleaning, or lawn-mowing, or house-sitting when they went on vacations.

BTW-- Channing House is beginning construction soon on a whole new Assisted Living/Nursing Care wing. I hear the rooms will be very pretty.

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Posted by Neighbor
a resident of Crescent Park
on May 14, 2010 at 8:20 pm

Poor Mrs. Harriet! One would think that in a community, like Palo Alto, respect and civility towards people would be present. Apparently not! This is horrid. It is terrifying in this culture to get old!

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Posted by Susan Shainovic
a resident of Evergreen Park
on May 15, 2010 at 1:12 am

My mother lives in an Atria assisted living residence in Great Neck, New York. She has her own apartment and 3 good meals a day are provided in the communal dining room. Her medications are given to her on schedule. She has been able to hire aides when she needed them after a heart attack-although she really didn't want them. She walks with a walker and has memory problems but she is still the same person she always was, with just some memory problems. There are people who live in their own apartment with 24 hour aides to help them and meals are brought to their room by their aides. No one is forced to go into a hospital type room. Even if a person becomes incontinent, they can still stay in their apartment. It seems like a more humane way to deal with elderly people-which we all be someday if we live long enough.

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Posted by myhometoo
a resident of Evergreen Park
on May 15, 2010 at 9:34 am

I enjoyed reading all the comments and opinions, but has anyone considered the people currently living in Channing House, anyone seek their opinion. I think that you would find that the vast majority love the place and would have a slightly different skew on the Herriot situation.
Was she gambling that she could change the rules. I'll bet she knew she would lose but was hoping to be able to continue to live there as long as possible. Maybe, think about it.
Whatever the reasons behind this lawsuit, I wish Ms Herriot and all at Channing House a long,contented,happy life.

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Posted by Verna Guzenda
a resident of Mountain View
on May 15, 2010 at 12:20 pm

Long Term Care Nurses Caught In Catch-22 Situation
About forty percent of physicians working in long-term care serve multiple facilities, do not maintain an office-based practice and consult with nurses via telephone if a resident’s needs change quickly. So, nurses in long-term care facilities ( LTCFs) play a vital role in communicating with physicians about residents under their care. Standard practice is for nurses to record the physician’s verbal orders, including medication requirements, then ensure that they are carried out. However, a new Catch-22 has emerged as a result of the U.S. Drug Enforcement Administration’s (DEA’s) outdated and cumbersome [...]

Web Link

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Posted by Resident
a resident of Palo Alto High School
on May 1, 2014 at 3:11 pm

How sad! Ms. Herriot paid for private care, with absolutely no expense to Channing House, so that she could live out her life in her apartment home where she was comfortable. A skilled mathematics teacher at Cubberley High School, she is a fine citizen of Palo Alto who deserves all the respect. Who at Channing House worked to remove her from her apartment? It is conceivable that they were ostensibly friendly, as they worked against her. Shameful. Shocking, too, is Judge Fogel's decision. It would be humane to rule in favor of Ms. Herriot, as there are and will continue to be similar cases.

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Posted by musical
a resident of Palo Verde
on May 1, 2014 at 11:09 pm

Dr Herriot passed away last year. Web Link

Sorry, but further commenting on this topic has been closed.

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