Lawsuit Filed: Elderly Woman Develops Horrific Stage IV Bedsore & Breaks Hip Due to Fresno Residential Care Facility’s Negligence

Fresno, Calif. — Addie Huff, an 80-year-old woman with dementia and diabetes, was admitted to Bella Vista, a non-medical residential care facility for the elderly, for medication management and custodial care. It’s alleged that during her brief residency, which lasted from July 30, 2018 to September 8, 2018, Huff fell and fractured her hip and developed a pressure sore on her back due to staff negligence. The facility did not inform Huff’s family about the pressure sore until it had become so severe that she required hospitalization and had to undergo a highly painful skin debridement procedure. The substandard care afforded to Huff resulted from the facility’s rampant understaffing, lack of training and failure to allot sufficient economic resources, according to the lawsuit.

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

“As a non-medical residential care facility for the elderly, Bella Vista could not provide Addie with the care she required to prevent falls and the formation and worsening of pressure sores,” said Attorney Stephen Garcia. “But in spite of this inability, facility operators allegedly admitted and retained Addie as a resident so they could make a few more bucks, all while ignoring her emergent medical and custodial needs. Further, pursuant to California regulations, the facility was supposed to submit reports to state licensing authorities relating to occurrences which would place the facility on notice of operational problems areas that could endanger the health and safety of residents. Bella Vista failed to meet this obligation and correct problems, which is documented in the Department of Social Service’s records, including the facility’s failure to properly staff and train its personnel.”  

Allegations and Background

Huff became a resident of Bella Vista on July 30, 2018, following multiple hospitalizations for her dementia, diabetes and issues managing and controlling her medications. Her family was unable to care for her and agreed with Huff’s physician to place her in a facility for medication management.

Residential care facilities for the elderly (RCFE) 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. In fact, they are prohibited by law from accepting residents with certain specific medical conditions.

Several weeks after admission, on about August 15, 2018, Huff was transported to a hospital where she was admitted for congestive heart failure. After treatment, Huff was readmitted to the facility.

The lawsuit alleges that upon Huff’s readmission, the facility and its operators were well aware, through assessment information, family information and physician notes and orders that Huff was a high fall risk and required special care and assistance. That care and assistance included 24-hour supervision and monitoring, assistance and monitoring with ambulation and transferring, safety and assistance devices to prevent accidents, assistance and monitoring with other activities of daily living, and interventions to prevent falls.                                   

The suit alleges that in spite of this knowledge, the facility failed to create and implement proper care plans to prevent Huff from falling. During Huff’s residency, the facility knowingly disregarded this risk and withheld the 24-hour care she needed.

Predictably, on August 24, 2018, Huff fell. She was transported to St. Agnes Hospital where X-rays revealed a left hip fracture requiring surgical repair. On August 25, 2018, Huff underwent surgery and was readmitted to the facility the following day.

The lawsuit alleges that the facility was fully aware upon Huff’s readmission that she was at high risk for skin breakdown and the development of pressure sores. After her fall, she was more sedentary and less mobile. She needed attention and care to her skin, including turning and repositioning every two hours, making sure she was clean and dry and free from waste, and ensuring she was properly hydrated and received sufficient nutrition to fight off the development of pressure sores.

The suit alleges that the facility wrongfully withheld the care Huff required to prevent skin breakdown and as a result, she developed an avoidable and severe stage IV pressure sore on her coccyx/sacral area at the base of her spine.

On August 28, 2018, Huff’s daughter visited the facility and observed new wounds on her mother’s feet and heels. Despite Huff’s daughter advising facility staff about these wounds, the staff allegedly left Huff lying in bed without regular turning and repositioning.

After this visit by Huff’s daughter, the facility was informed about a fall with major injury suffered by Huff’s husband at home. As such, during the ensuing weeks, it was incumbent upon the facility staff to keep Huff’s family apprised of her health status and report any changes in her condition. The facility failed Huff and her family in this regard, according to the suit.

The suit alleges that it was not until September 8, during a visit by Huff’s daughter, that anyone from Huff’s family was told she had developed a pressure sore on her coccyx/sacral area. The family was shocked to see the severity of the craterous, gaping Stage IV bedsore. Huff’s daughter immediately called 911 for transport to St. Agnes Hospital.

Upon arrival at the hospital, Huff was diagnosed with dehydration and a Stage IV coccyx decubitus ulcer. The severity of the pressure sore required Huff to undergo a painful debridement procedure.