Lawsuit Filed: Paralyzed Man Develops Life-Threatening Deep Tissue Injury Due to Orange Nursing Home's Negligence; Dies Weeks Later
Orange, Calif. — Stephen Balaz, a 60-year-old man, was admitted to New Orange Hills for skilled nursing care after suffering a stroke. The stroke left him completely dependent and unable to move or breathe on his own. It’s alleged that while he was a resident of the facility, Balaz developed a life-threatening Stage III+ deep tissue pressure sore on his buttocks that would not have occurred had facility operators put appropriate care interventions in place. The infected sore caused Balaz to suffer needless pain before he passed away, just weeks after leaving the facility. According to the lawsuit, Balaz’s negligent treatment was the direct result of a systematic scheme by facility operators to withhold appropriate staff and care from residents in order to maximize profits.
Garcia & Artigliere filed a lawsuit against New Orange Hills for dependent adult abuse, and negligent hiring and supervision.
“New Orange Hills staff knew that Stephen was extremely vulnerable to pressure sores and infections because of his highly compromised medical condition and physician assessments. Our Complaint asserts that in order to gain Stephen’s family’s trust, the facility made specific representations and promises regarding the professional nursing care he would receive, which were ultimately lies,” said Attorney Stephen Garcia. “Based on Stephen’s injuries, it’s now obvious that the facility’s focus was on making money by filling beds and not on providing adequate resident care. It’s not surprising that the facility has been cited by the Department of Public Health for chronic regulatory violations.”
Allegations and Background
On November 17, 2017, Balaz was admitted to the facility from UCI Medical Center following a stroke.
The lawsuit alleges that upon Balaz’s admission, facility staff were fully aware that he suffered from pre-existing conditions that left him dependent for all the activities of daily living, including turning and repositioning his body, transferring in and out of his bed and wheelchair, dressing, grooming, bathing, hygiene, toileting, and medication management. Due to his conditions and dependence, he was extremely vulnerable to developing pressure sores and infection. By admitting Balaz as a resident, facility operators asserted that they could meet his custodial needs, including those pertaining to his vulnerability for developing pressure sores.
The lawsuit states that Balaz entered the facility without any pressure sores on his body, as was documented throughout his facility chart. For example, on November 18, 2017, his skin assessments and physician wound orders document only “perineal diaper rash” and say that his buttock/coccyx area are clear. On November 19, 2017, a skin examination finding says only “scattered bruises.” On November 20, 2017, a facility nutritionist documented his skin as intact.
On November 21, 2017, just three days after admission, a deep tissue pressure injury was first identified throughout Balaz’s chart. It was identified as possibly a Stage III pressure sore. It’s important to note that in 2007, the National Pressure Ulcer Advisory Panel updated the definition of pressure ulcers with the addition of two additional stages, on top of the four original stages. They are deep tissue injury and unstageable pressure ulcers. The two new stages are important because they recognize that some serious pressure ulcers do not fit neatly into the four diagnostic stages, but are serious and are likely to be either a Stage III or Stage IV ulcer due to the injury to deep tissue.
The lawsuit alleges that in an effort to fraudulently conceal their ignorance of Balaz’s skin problems, facility staff fraudulently documented the development of pressure sores on Balaz’s body. As a result, his facility chart contains internally inconsistent and contradictory notations as to the genesis and development of the severe deep tissue injury.
The suit further alleges that the facility acted with reckless indifference and blatant ignorance about Balaz’s needs. Throughout his residency at the facility, Balaz was routinely found by his family lying unturned in the same position for significant time periods. The ignorance of his wound care prevention and management needs continued unabated even when his family placed signs on the walls of his room to remind facility staff of the orders and instructions from his physician, the suit states.
Balaz left the facility on March 17, 2018. He spent the remainder of his life enduring otherwise unnecessary medical treatments for his injuries. Despite his advanced age and his conditions at the time of admission to the facility, Balaz’s quality of life was greatly impacted by the lack of quality medical care and interventions he received. The suit alleges that the facility’s abuse and neglect caused unnecessary and prolonged suffering for both Balaz and his family.
Sadly, Balaz passed away on May 5, 2018.