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Suit Accuses Care Home of Fraud, Abuse

Courts: Former patient alleges he was neglected at Shoreline Care Center in Oxnard, resulting in weight loss and bedsores. Facility was investigated in 1998.

November 18, 2000|TRACY WILSON | TIMES STAFF WRITER

An Oxnard nursing home has again been sued for elder abuse and fraud after a 77-year-old resident allegedly lost 40 pounds and developed deep bedsores during a three-month stay.

The lawsuit filed this week by Oxnard resident Archie Sandoval against Shoreline Care Center alleges that he suffered agonizing pain from sores on his feet and back that went untreated.

Sandoval says he was not given pain medication or proper food and accuses employees of concealing his condition from a doctor, family members and state inspectors.

The lawsuit further alleges that Shoreline and its Orange County-based parent company, Covenant Care California, were more concerned with making money than proving adequate care to elderly residents.

"The defendants' intentional choice to under staff their skilled-nursing facilities so as to maximize profits directly resulted in Archie Sandoval being injured," the suit says.

The complaint filed by San Pedro attorney Stephen M. Garcia, whose firm specializes in elder abuse cases, seeks unspecified damages.

Andrew Tovok, general counsel for Covenant Care, said Friday that he had not seen the lawsuit and could not comment on its allegations. But he defended the company and its facilities.

"We pride ourselves on the highest quality of care," Tovok said. "I think we are doing a heck of a good job."

Tovok added that the nursing home industry is heavily regulated and provides crucial services to a fragile elderly population--one that is expected to increase significantly in years to come.

"And in any industry," he said, "you are going to have people who bring lawsuits."

Last year, Shoreline and its parent company were sued for elder abuse, wrongful death and fraud by the son and daughter of an 85-year-old woman who died of dehydration and kidney failure a week after leaving the facility.

According to a 1998 state investigative report, Shoreline failed to provide adequate amounts of fluid to Anna Marie Dumont and failed to document her fluid intake. The home also put mittens on her hands--to keep her from scratching herself--that prevented her from drinking.

The lawsuit filed by Dumont's children accused Shoreline of reducing staff levels to boost business profits at the expense of adequate patient care.

The suit was settled under confidential terms in December. Oxnard attorney Mark Hiepler, who represented Dumont's children, said at the time that he hoped the case had sent a message that nursing homes cannot put profits before the needs of their elderly residents.

A 1992 state law exposes care providers to costly penalties if they mistreat elders. It allows plaintiffs to recover attorneys' fees and lets juries award pain-and-suffering damages to elderly victims or their survivors.

In Sandoval's case, the law also allows him to have a speedier trial because of his age.

Sandoval, a longtime Oxnard resident, was admitted to Shoreline in July for rehabilitation after undergoing hip surgery at Ventura County Medical Center, Garcia said.

During the next three months, Sandoval dropped from 190 to 150 pounds, the lawyer said.

Sandoval has since regained his weight, but the complaint says that he continues to suffer "extreme emotional and psychological trauma" from his stay at Shoreline.

In addition to the negligence and elder abuse claims, the suit seeks damages for intentional infliction of emotional distress and an injunction prohibiting Shoreline from continuing any negligent conduct.

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