Los Angeles Nursing Home Abuse - LA Personal Injury Attorneys

Attorney General Abandons Elder Abuse Case

December 23, 2013

Ellis Law Corporation

Personal Injury

If you or a loved one have been the victim of Los Angeles nursing home abuse or neglect, those responsible may face a civil suit or criminal charges.  As personal injury attorneys, we can represent you and your family when filing a civil case to seek compensation due to the nursing home’s acts and omissions. Criminal charges against nursing home staff are rare, though the treatment of too many nursing home residents literally is criminal.

Civil case succeeds while criminal case does not

The case of Johnnie Esco of Cameron Park shows the limits of the criminal system in dealing with these issues.  Her husband, Don Esco, settled his civil lawsuit against the El Dorado Care Center in Placerville and its owner in 2010 for $2.9 million. That lawsuit alleged the facility was responsible for the death of his wife of sixty years in 2008.  Don Esco died in 2012.

The 77-year-old woman, suffering from dementia and other chronic illnesses, was recuperating at the nursing home in February 2008 following a bout with pneumonia. After thirteen days at the nursing home she died at nearby hospital.  Her condition suddenly worsened and she was found to have a severe fecal impaction due to chronic constipation.

More than five years after Johnnie’s death, the criminal trial ended in November with California’s Attorney General deciding not to seek a second trial against the facility’s former head nurse, Donna Darlene Palmer,who was charged with felony elder abuse,after a mistrial. The jury failed to reach a verdict.

The prosecution contended that Palmer and a licensed vocational nurse, Rebecca Smith, failed to perform their duties and to adequately supervise staff in caring for Esco.Palmer and Smith were arrested in March 2012. Smith later pleaded no contest to felony elder abuse and agreed to help prosecutors in their criminal case against Palmer, her former supervisor.

Nursing home staff fill out paperwork instead of providing care

Esco’s treatment was featured in a September 2011 article in the Sacramento Bee.  In it was evidence obtained through discovery in the civil case that nursing home staff did not adequately care for Esco and they falsified medical records to cover that up. There was also testimony that employees regularly failed to care for nursing home residents and would fill out forms indicating residents received care when in fact they had not.

Falsifying records may not have only served to cover up mistreatment of residents, but also may have served the nursing home’s financial interests. According to the article, the nursing home billed Medicare for nearly four hours of physical and occupational therapy when in fact Escowas bed ridden and unresponsive in her final days at the facility.

As a practical matter, the best chance a family has to right the wrong of nursing home abuse and neglect is through a civil action, where evidentiary standards are lower and plaintiffs attorneys may have more resources than criminal prosecutors.

Victims of Los Angeles nursing home abuse

To speak with Los Angeles personal injury attorneys who are well-versed in elder abuse cases, contact The Ellis law firm for a free consultation. Our attorneys boast a long track record of successful verdicts and settlements involving nursing home abuse in the LA area. To learn more about your legal options, call 310-641-3335.