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Lawsuit Filed: Elderly Woman Falls, Breaks Knee and Can No Longer Walk

Garcia & Artigliere

Norwalk, Calif. — Maria Vasquez, who is now 90 years old, was admitted to Villa Elena Healthcare Center, a skilled nursing facility, for custodial care in 2014. Two years later, she suffered a stroke that left her partially paralyzed and unable to communicate. It’s alleged that during her residency in the facility, Vasquez suffered several preventable falls and near-miss falls, in spite of facility staff’s knowing that she needed 24-hour care because of her compromised condition. In September 2018, Vasquez fell and broke her knee while left unattended. Shockingly, the facility did not report the fall to her doctor or family, or transfer her to a hospital, as stated in the Complaint. She was only taken to the hospital after her family heard her crying out in pain. As a result of the facility’s alleged negligence, Vasquez can no longer walk, and her health and physical condition have continued to deteriorate.

Garcia & Artigliere filed a lawsuit against Villa Elena Healthcare Center for elder abuse, and negligent hiring and supervision.

“Villa Elena Healthcare Center was aware upon Maria’s admission and throughout her residency that she required a higher level of care and care interventions than the facility could, or would, lawfully provide,” said Attorney Stephen Garcia. “As alleged in our Complaint, the main concern of facility operators was to make more money for themselves at the expense of vulnerable residents. Unfortunately, the focus of these individuals on their own attainment of profits led to underfunding of the facility, and to Maria’s injuries.”

Allegations and Background

In 2014, Vasquez was admitted to Villa Elena Healthcare Center because her family could no longer care for her at home.

In 2016, Vasquez was transferred from the facility to PIH Health Hospital – Whittier’s emergency room, where she was diagnosed as having suffered a stroke. The stroke left her paralyzed on her right side and unable to communicate her needs or swallow properly. She was thereafter readmitted to the facility for rehabilitative therapy.

The lawsuit alleges that upon her readmission, facility staff were well aware — through assessment information, family information and physician notes and orders — that Vasquez’s condition left her dependent on staff for assistance with all activities of daily living. These activities included transfers into and out of bed, mobility, dressing, grooming, bathing, hygiene, toileting and medication management. The suit further alleges that the facility was well aware that Vasquez’s medical conditions and associated dependence, as well as her history of prior falls, walking ability and tendency to attempt unassisted transfers when unattended, made her particularly vulnerable to further falls and injuries.

In spite of this knowledge, the facility disregarded the risks to Vasquez and failed to put in place the proper care plans, supervision and interventions to prevent her from falling, the lawsuit alleges.

Predictably, on or about September 8, 2018, after a series of near misses and actual falls, Vasquez was left unattended in the bathroom and fell. Rather than fulfill their legal duty to report the fall to Vasquez’s physician and family, facility staff merely administered pain medication. Only when her family found her crying out in pain was Vasquez finally transferred to PIH Health Hospital – Whittier, the suit alleges.

Upon arrival at the hospital emergency room, Vasquez was diagnosed with a fractured right knee requiring surgical intervention. Unfortunately, because of her advanced age and health infirmities, she was determined to be unsuitable for surgery and was instead provided a knee brace.

After suffering the preventable fall at the facility and fracturing her knee, Vasquez has lost her ability to walk. This ability was still present upon her admission to the facility. Her health has also deteriorated beyond that caused by the normal aging process.

The lawsuit alleges that if there had been sufficient staff at the facility in both number and competency, Vasquez would have received proper care and assistance and her injuries would not have occurred. It further alleges that her injuries were a direct result of the facility operators’ business practices, which included understaffing and employing untrained personnel who were forbidden by law to administer nursing care to residents.

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