Lawsuit Filed: Elderly Woman Develops Horrific Bedsore Requiring Surgery Due to West Covina Residential Care Facility’s Negligence

West Covina, Calif. — Margaret Harling, a 94-year-old woman recovering from a hip fracture and subsequent hip repair surgery after a fall at her home, was admitted to House of Grace 2 for rehabilitation and custodial care.  It’s alleged that during the short time she was a resident—approximately two months—Harling developed a pressure sore on her heel that was negligently left untreated. According to the Complaint, facility staff did not inform Harling’s family about the sore until it had become so severe that it ate away Harling’s skin, fascia and muscle to the bone. As a result, Harling required hospitalization and a painful skin debridement surgery.

Garcia & Artigliere filed a lawsuit against House of Grace 2 for elder abuse, and negligent hiring and supervision.

“Margaret needed additional time to recover following her hip surgery, so she and her family entrusted her care to House of Grace 2. Instead of receiving the adequate care she so desperately needed to recuperate, this vulnerable elder suffered further injury and surgery which, according to the allegations of the Complaint, were solely caused by the incompetence of facility staff who were underqualified and overworked so that House of Grace could make a few more dollars,” said Attorney Stephen Garcia. “As is alleged in the Complaint, House of Grace failed Margaret by intentionally understaffing and underfunding the facility to increase profits, even as operators knew this would increase the risk of harm to residents. This facility has a history of being issued deficiencies by the Department of Social Services and has apparently done little to correct its health and safety violations, as evidenced by the alleged lack of care Margaret received and her resulting injuries.”

Allegations and Background

In February 2018, Harling was transferred from a skilled nursing home to House of Grace 2, a residential care facility for the elderly (RCFE). Two months before admission, she had fallen at her home, fractured her hip and had surgery to repair the fracture. Harling had undergone rehabilitation therapy and needed further rehabilitative 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 based upon resident needs.

The suit alleges that while Harling was a resident of the facility during February and March of 2018, as a result of the negligent and wrongful withholding of required care and services and a lack of trained staff, Harling suffered catastrophic injuries, extreme pain and suffering, and mental anguish. More specifically, she suffered a massive and avoidable bedsore on her heel. The sore was so severe that Harling had to undergo a painful surgical debridement procedure at Inter Community Hospital.

Pressure sores are staged on a scale of 1 to 4. Stage 1 and 2 sores are considered a “restricted condition” in an RCFE, meaning the resident may remain in the facility if wound care is provided by an appropriately skilled professional. Stage 3 and 4 pressure sores are prohibited conditions in an RCFE. If a resident develops a Stage 3 or 4 sore, which are the most severe stages of pressure ulcers—exposing skin, muscle and bone—the resident must be transferred to a higher level of care. “Unstageable” sores, like Harling suffered, are completely obscured by dead tissue and cannot be measured, but they will be either Stage 3 or 4 sores, and thus are prohibited in a residential care facility.

The suit alleges that facility staff did not notify Harling’s family about her pressure sore until it was already unstageable and needed surgical debridement. The suit further alleges that upon Harling’s admittance to the facility, staff knew that because of her medical condition, Harling was at high risk for skin breakdown, and the development and deterioration of pressure sores. Staff further knew that she needed constant attention and care, including turning and repositioning of her body every two hours, making sure she was clean and dry, and that she was properly hydrated and received sufficient nutrition.

However, the suit alleges, the facility was unable to provide Harling with the care she required as the direct result of insufficiency of staff in number, competence and training, which led directly to Harling’s preventable pressure sores.

As stated in the Complaint, the facility’s management operators knew, based on their background, training and expertise in caring for the elderly and disabled, that pressure sores pose a serious health risk. This conscious choice by facility operators to understaff and underfund the facility subjected Harling to needless pain and suffering. Ultimately, this led to severe injuries that resulted in her hospitalization as well as painful debridement surgery, the lawsuit alleges.