Lawsuit Filed: Elderly Woman's Bedsore Becomes Infected with E. Coli
Paradise, Calif. — Maria Coffman, a 79-year-old woman with dementia and other significant medical conditions, was admitted to Atria Paradise for 24-hour care. It’s alleged that while she was a resident, Coffman developed a severe pressure sore on her back that was left untreated. The staff did not inform Coffman’s family or physician about the sore and when they finally did inform them, staff minimized its severity. As a result of this alleged willful negligence, the pressure sore became infected with E. coli, requiring that Coffman be hospitalized. According to the lawsuit, Atria Paradise, a Residential Care Facility for the Elderly (RCFE), admitted Coffman despite her need levels and health conditions prohibiting the facility from retaining her as a resident of their nonmedical RCFE. The alleged lack of care afforded to Coffman resulted from the facility’s plot to increase the operators’ profits at the expense of residents.
Garcia & Artigliere filed a lawsuit against Atria Paradise for elder abuse, and negligent hiring and supervision.
“Maria was admitted to Atria Paradise with the understanding that she would be adequately cared for by facility staff. Instead, the facility which was entrusted with her care, knowingly and wrongfully withheld promised care to Maria,” said Attorney Stephen Garcia. “California and federal statutes and regulations set forth the clear safety rules that an RCFE must follow to protect the health and safety of its residents. Everyone involved in the care of RCFE residents know these rules and understand that adherence to these rules is important because they are designed to keep elderly and frail residents safe. And yet, these important regulations were flagrantly violated by Atria Paradise in their dealings with Maria. The facility knew that violating these safety rules would, and did, put Maria and other residents at high risk for injury. This was evidenced by the facilities significant history of being issued deficiencies by the Department of Social Services for failing to provide care to its residents in conformity with these known rules.”
Allegations and Background
Coffman was admitted to Atria Paradise in 2017 and the lawsuit alleges that upon entering the facility, the staff knew of Coffman’s health conditions that prohibited her lawful admission as a resident.
RCFEs are an intermediate step between independent living and nursing homes. They do not provide medical treatment. Instead, these facilities provide varying levels and intensities of non-medical care and services based upon resident needs. These facilities charge residents a base rate and additional fees based on assessed levels of personal care and the services associated with the level of care.
The suit alleges that as a result of the wrongful withholding of care and lack of trained staff, Coffman developed a pressure sore on her lower back in the coccyx area. The wound worsened as a result of the continued withholding of proper care until it developed into a stage 3 pressure wound. At one point, the wound was even determined to be ‘’unstageable’’ by a wound care nurse. Unstageable pressure sores are prohibited in RCFEs because of their severity.
The suit alleges that facility staff did not report worsening bedsore to Coffman’s family or her doctor, which was a clear violation of the mandatory requirements. Had staff complied with reporting requirements, Coffman would not have continued to needlessly suffer.
In March 2018, the facility first notified Coffman’s daughter about the wound, falsely representing that the wound was not very bad, the suit alleges. The family relied upon this misrepresentation of the wound. As a result, the pressure sore worsened even more.
In June 2018, the wound developed an infection. The infection was left untreated until it worsened into an E. coli infection, further requiring a course of antibiotics. E. coli infections develop in residential facilities and nursing homes when hygiene, cleanliness and appropriate medical care are lacking. These infections lead to sepsis, an infection of the blood which may prove to be fatal.
On or about June 1, 2018, Coffman was transferred from the facility to Adventist/Feather River Hospital due to the severity of the pressure sore.
The suit alleges that the facility operators knew, based on their background, training, and expertise in caring for the disabled and elderly, that pressure sores pose a serious threat to life. Further, they knew that the disabled and infirm lack the resources to fight off infection and heal open wounds in the same way that a healthy person would. They knew that failure to prevent and treat bedsore poses lethal consequences. They also knew that without hospitalization, Coffman’s condition would continue to worsen. Yet the facility retained her anyway to continue to collect her monthly payments. The suit further alleges that this was a conscious choice by facility operators to maximize profits by understaffing and underfunding the facility at the expense of residents’ health.