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Lawsuit Filed: Elderly Veteran Suffers Severe Injuries Due to Negligence

Garcia & Artigliere

Santa Clara, Calif. – Tomas Cortez, a 92-year-old World War II veteran with Sundowner’s syndrome, was admitted to Valley House Rehabilitation Center after undergoing spinal fusion surgery due to a fall at home. Even after this injury Tomas was able to walk with a cane but was at high risk for suffering falls which are so often in elders. Despite the fact that Tomas was admitted to Valley House for the express purpose of assistance to prevent deadly falls, Valley House ignored Tomas’ needs and allowed him to suffer numerous falls resulting in multiple fractures. The care of Tomas by Valley House was so abysmal that after a thorough investigation, the California Department of Public Health found rampant violations of regulations of Valley House as to their neglect of Tomas. The Department concluded:

Based on interview and record review, the facility failed to ensure that [Tomas Cortez] received appropriate treatment and service to assess and treat his increase in physical behaviors. Failure to provide a psychiatric evaluation for increased behaviors has the potential for a decline in the resident’s medical condition and possible injury.

The Department of Public Health detailed these findings in a Summary Statement of Deficiencies for Valley House Rehabilitation Center dated August 9, 2017.

Garcia & Artigliere filed a lawsuit against Valley House Rehabilitation Center for elder abuse, and negligent hiring and supervision.

“Valley House Rehabilitation Center has a history of being issued deficiencies by the State of California’s Department of Health Services, and Tomas’ case is one of many alleged instances of the facility wrongfully ignoring patient needs and physician’s orders that would have prevented avoidable injuries,” said Attorney Stephen Garcia. “Based on Tomas’ repeat trips to the hospital, it’s apparent the facility did not have sufficient staff on duty to provide required care or appropriately document his worsening conditions. Instead, he was allowed to suffer horrendous pressure sores and painful hip fractures while the facility focused on its own profiteering.”

Allegations and Background

On or about June 4, 2014, Tomas Cortez was admitted to Valley House Rehabilitation Center and within six months of admission, he was wheelchair-bound having lost his ability to walk with a cane and developed up to nine urinary tract infections due to catheter-use. The lawsuit states that, among other negligence, the facility failed to: provide adequate and proper assistance with personal hygiene to prevent the formation and worsening of pressure sores which included the use of pressure-reducing devices; provide adequate nutrition and hydration to stave off skin breakdown; properly and competently evaluate clinical conditions; and adhere to physician orders and provide timely communication regarding emergent medical conditions. It’s alleged that this withholding of care caused continued and worsening medical conditions and injuries as outlined below.

In or about December 2015, Cortez had a syncope episode (loss of consciousness) at the facility and was sent to O’Connor Hospital where he was diagnosed with severe dehydration. By this time, Cortez was well known at O’Connor Hospital having previously received treatment for recurring urinary tract infections, C-Diff, and pneumonia since admission to the facility. By the end of 2015, Cortez had also developed a deep tissue injury on his heel requiring wound care treatment, which developed an antibiotic-resistant bacteria.

In or about early 2017, Cortez was frequently discovered by family with swelling, bruising and skin tears, including on his feet from his wheelchair. Cortez had also developed a coccyx/sacral decubitus ulcer which is still unhealed to this day. In or about March 2017, Cortez developed a body rash diagnosed as possible scabies, which is also unhealed to this day. By June 2017, Cortez developed another urinary tract infection and experienced penile pain and discomfort diagnosed as phimosis.

In or about July 2017, Cortez was discovered by family with unexplained swelling and bruising on his index finger. He was sent to Los Gatos Community Hospital and diagnosed with a fractured finger.

In or about October 10, 2017, Cortez was found on the floor by facility staff after another resident heard a thump from his room. Cortez was sent to Las Gatos Community Hospital via ambulance and diagnosed with a hip fracture, head contusions, dehydration, and methicillin-resistant Staphylococcus aureus (MRSA) of nasal passages. Three days later, Cortez was discharged to the facility after deemed unsuitable for surgery given the high risk if bedridden during recovery.

On October 18, 2017, Cortez was sent to O’Connor Hospital for symptoms diagnosed as Urosepsis (blood infection) and severe dehydration requiring multiple IV fluids.


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