Emeritus at Santa Rosa to Pay Out $1 Million in Wrongful Death Settlement

Written by NHAbuseGuide on February 25, 2016

A high-end nursing home located in Santa Rosa recently agreed to pay out a $1 million settlement to the family of a woman who allegedly died on the premises, while in the care of the staff, because of complications due to a bedsore. The alleged victim’s name was Eleanor Buckingham, 87.

High-Priced Facility Lets an Ulcer Evolve into Sepsis

Since the incident back in 2013, the Emeritus at Santa Rosa nursing home has changed its name to Brookdale Fountaingrove.

According to her family, the staff at this facility did not properly address a pressure ulcer that had developed on their mother’s back. They say that the employees actually withheld the necessary care until the ulcer became infected.

Attorneys Sandy Horowitz and Jeremy Fietz say that, eventually, she was taken to Santa Rosa Memorial Hospital, where she died of sepsis.

Aside from the tragic nature of such an incident, the attorneys also point out that this case is a telling one because it shows that even the most expensive elder care facility can employ people who make mistakes. To stay in the Fountaingrove Pawkway facility, patients were charged $100,000 a year.

Fietz has said that, he, “thinks it’s really important that people watch very carefully, no matter what nursing home their loved one gets into.”

A Statement from New Management

For their part, staff at the facility have offered no public comment. Sue Becker, the administrator and executive director, and Jennifer Abramson, a former director of nursing there, have not said anything to the press.

Brookdale—the Tennessee-based company that went on to buy the nursing home—owns at least three other facilities in Sonoma County. It bought Emeritus Corporation for $1.4 billion in stock back in 2014.

That company released a statement through Shawna Zody, their spokeswoman. It mentions having made unspecified changes since the aforementioned merger and highlighted that the incident highlighted in the lawsuit happened prior to the merger.

“While there were defenses to the allegations, we ultimately decided to resolve this case to put our focus on what matters most, the health and well-being of our residents,” read the statement from Shawna Zody.

A Payout and a Statement

According to Patricia McGinnis, executive director of California Advocates for Nursing Home Reform—a Bay Area watchdog group—the $1 million settlement is notable as damages for simple negligence in California are capped at $250,000 under the law.

“A million dollars is a statement,” she said. “It says, we did something wrong.”

According to Ms. McGinnis, this tragic incident may also undercut a bigger problem in the nursing home industry: corporate-owned homes trying to provide comprehensive care.

“They are large, for-profit chains trying to provide healthcare. I’m not sure they are capable of doing it.”

Negligence Caused by Cutting Corners?

That may be what the problem at the root of this case. Buckingham was admitted to the nursing home after she suffered from a bout of cellulitis in 2012. However, she had plans to return to living with her daughter after her rehabilitation was complete.

While admitting her, the staff noticed a bedsore on her back, but didn’t take any steps to get her treatment for it. This allowed the wound to actually double in size while they held her until the last day she would be covered by Medicare.

It was at this point that Emeritus downgraded Buckingham’s care to assisted living from skilled nursing.

After a specialist was finally able to examine her, she was sent to Memorial Hospital because of a serious infection that had developed on her back. Eight days later, Buckingham died of sepsis.




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