Lawsuit Filed: Elderly Man Fractures Hip and is Now Confined to a Wheelchair Due to Santa Maria Nursing Home’s Negligence

Santa Maria, Calif. — Robert Sarullo, a 92-year-old man with dementia and other medical conditions, was admitted to Magnolia, a residential care facility for the elderly (RCFE), for short-term custodial care while his family, with whom he lived, went on vacation. It’s alleged that during the short time Sarullo resided at the facility, he fell and broke his hip as a result of the incompetence of the facility’s untrained staff.  According to the Complaint, the facility did not seek X-rays after his fall, assuring Sarullo’s family that he had only suffered bruising. As his pain increased, Sarullo’s family rushed him to the hospital where it was determined that he had a displaced hip fracture that required surgical repair. Sadly, his condition had deteriorated so much that he was deemed unsuitable for surgery. Since his residence at the facility, Sarullo has suffered rapidly declining health and has required multiple hospital admissions.

Garcia & Artigliere filed a lawsuit against Magnolia for elder abuse, and negligent hiring and supervision.

“As an RCFE, the facility was not compelled to accept Robert as a resident, and in fact, due to his medical needs and conditions they were prohibited from doing so. And yet, as the Complaint alleges, they accepted him for dollars, known in the industry as “heads in beds.” Having accepted the responsibility to care for Robert, Magnolia took on the legally-mandated duties of providing the proper care and services that he required, however, they failed miserably to provide,” said Attorney Stephen Garcia. “As stated in the lawsuit, the facility’s operators knew that they did not have the properly trained staff and resources to care for Robert, but in order to fill the facility’s beds and their own pocketbooks, they deceived his family and accepted him as a resident. Moreover, they had the audacity to allegedly charge Robert’s family additional fees above the facility’s base rate because of his heightened personal care needs, and still did not provide the care he required.”

Allegations and Background

Sarullo entered Magnolia on August 1, 2018. His family had placed him in the facility for a short stay while they were on vacation. This was Sarullo’s first time away from his family since he started living with them in 2015 after his wife passed away.

The suit alleges that upon Sarullo’s admittance, the facility was aware that he was at high risk for falls and required special care and supervision to protect him from falls and injury. He was frail, had a slow and unsteady gait, and was unable to walk or stand without a walker. He also suffered from dementia and other medical conditions.

Additionally, Sarullo was dependent upon others for all activities of daily living, including transferring and mobility, toileting assistance, medical management and more. He also used a catheter due to incontinence and required skilled, professional catheter care.

RCFEs are an intermediate step between independent living and nursing homes. They do not provide medical care and treatment. Instead, these facilities provide varying levels and intensities of non-medical care and services, such as care and supervision, protective supervision, or personal care based upon resident needs. State law prohibits RCFEs from admitting and retaining people with prohibited conditions, which includes dementia, people who use a catheter—unless professional catheter care is assured—and individuals who need assistance with all activities of daily living.

Unfortunately, in spite of the facility knowing that Sarullo required heightened care, that care was not provided, the suit alleges. Just days after admission, his family visited him and found his catheter bag had been left plugged in, placing him at high risk for serious injury.

On August 6, 2018, family members again visited the facility and found Sarullo crying out in pain. He told them he had fallen in the bathroom earlier that morning. He had been left standing with his walker, unattended by the untrained staff, the suit alleges.

The lawsuit further alleges that when confronted by Sarullo’s family as to why no one notified them of his fall and why no X-rays were performed, facility staff explained that Sarullo had only bruised his hip, so X-rays were unnecessary. As a result of this misstatement about the extent of Sarullo’s injuries, he did not receive much needed medical care. After the fall, he lost all ability to stand and was confined to a wheelchair.

On August 31, 2018, the family returned from vacation to find Sarullo still confined to his wheelchair and complaining of hip pain.

On September 5, 2018, Sarullo continued to complain of pain and could not stand. His family took him to Marian Regional Medical Center, where X-rays were performed and doctors discovered Sarullo had a displaced hip fracture requiring surgical repair. Unfortunately, by that time, his condition left him unsuitable for surgery.

On October 12, 2018, Sarullo and his family were told by doctors that his chances for survival are bleak.