(Please note: the names and locations of all parties have been changed to protect the confidentiality of the participants in this elder abuse/wrongful death case and its proceedings.)
The lower court granted summary judgment for defendants, finding that the facts adduced by plaintiffs amounted only to medical negligence and not “reckless neglect.” The court of appeal reversed, finding several independent bases that supported an inference of reckless neglect. Id. at 85. The nursing home’s display of the keypad number above the keypad on the door to the ward, raised a reasonable inference that the nursing home had consciously disregarded the safety of the Alzheimer patients, including Mrs. Intrieri because it provided “unfettered access” to the Alzheimer’s ward to any one who could read the code. Id. at 84.
The nursing home’s failure to take steps to prevent the belligerent resident from harming Mrs. Intrieri and other residents, knowing that he had been exhibiting bizarre behavior, also evinced reckless neglect. Id. at 84-85. The nursing home’s failure to make changes to Mrs. Intrieri’s care plan after she developed pressure ulcers, and its failure to follow a care plan for the ulcers after an outside physician set a plan of treatment for the ulcers, also supported a reasonable inference that the nursing home acted with reckless neglect in caring for Mrs. Intrieri. Id. at 85.
In Sababin v. Superior Court (2006) 144 Cal.App.4th 81, a lawsuit had been brought against a skilled nursing facility by the family of a deceased woman, who acquired pressure ulcers at the facility, which caused her death. She had Huntington’s chorea disease, which put her at known risk for skin breakdown. Id. at 83. The facility was granted summary judgment in the lower court based on its argument that it had no liability unless it injured the dependent adult due to a total absence of care. Id. at 90. In reversing, the Court of Appeal held, We disagree.
If some care is provided, that will not necessarily absolve a care facility of dependent abuse liability. For example, if a care facility knows it must provide a certain type of care on a daily basis but provides that care sporadically, or is supposed to provide multiple types of care but only provides some of those types of care, withholding of care has occurred. Ibid. The court relied on the Act’s statutory definition of neglect which includes failing to provide medical care for physical needs and failing to protect from health and safety hazards. See Welf. & Instit. § 15610.57 ((a)(2)& (3).
The court continued, In those cases, the trier of fact must determine whether there is a significant pattern of withholding portions or types of care. A significant pattern is one that involves repeated withholding of care and leads to the conclusion that the pattern was the result of choice or deliberate indifference. Ibid. The court further explained that, A trier of fact could find that when a care facility’s employees ignore a care plan and fail to check the skin condition of a resident with Huntington’s chorea, such conduct shows deliberate disregard of the high degree of probability that she will suffer injury. Ibid. (See Part 6 of 11.)
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