Elder abuse claimed in treatment of 80-year-old in poor health. Defense. Los Angeles County.

Summary

Man fractures arm, is admitted to hospital with numerous other life-threatening medical conditions. Sores on face and lower back lead to claim of elder abuse.

The Case

  • Case Name: Haroutunyan v. CHA Hollywood Medical Center, LP dba Hollywood Presbyterian Medical Center
  • Court and Case Number: Los Angeles County Superior Court / BC640891
  • Date of Verdict or Judgment: Friday, October 27, 2017
  • Date Action was Filed: Wednesday, November 16, 2016
  • Type of Action: Elder Abuse
  • Judge or Arbitrator(s): Hon. Fredrick C. Shaller
  • Plaintiffs:
    Gevorg Haroutunyan by and through his Guardian ad Litem, Ruzanna Khachatryan
  • Defendants:
    CHA Hollywood Medical Center dba Hollywood Presbyterian Medical Center
  • Type of Result: Jury Verdict

The Result

  • Gross Verdict or Award: Defense verdict.
  • Trial or Arbitration Time: 19 days.
  • Jury Deliberation Time: 1 hour.
  • Jury Polls: 12-0

The Attorneys

  • Attorney for the Plaintiff:

    Roland C. Colton, Laguna Niguel.

    The Peck Law Group by Adam Peck, Van Nuys.

     

  • Attorney for the Defendant:

    Hester Law Group, APC  by Cecille L. Hester and Lesvia M. Alvarado, Glendale.

The Experts

  • Plaintiff’s Medical Expert(s):

    Lois Ross, R.N. WOCN, Thousand Oaks.

    Roger C. Schechter, M.D.,wound care, Escondido.

    Thijs Janssen, R.T.

  • Defendant's Medical Expert(s):

    Abraham Ishaaya, M.D.,Los Angeles.

    Sandra Higelin, R.N., WOCN, Palm Springs.

    Trinidad Valencia, R.T.

Facts and Background

  • Facts and Background:

    On March 15, 2016, one day prior to his 81st birthday, plaintiff was admitted to Hollywood Presbyterian Medical Center ED for a right humeral fracture that had occurred at home. Plaintiff lived with his daughter and son-in-law. He was admitted to the hospital with acute renal failure, dehydration and respiratory distress. He had a long history of medical conditions, including end-stage chronic obstructive pulmonary disease, Parkinson's disease, diabetes mellitus type 2, benign prostatic hypertrophy, obesity, moderate Alzheimer's dementia, coronary artery disease, and a pacemaker.

    Two days after admission a closed reduction was performed on the plaintiff, but his respiratory condition and renal function continued to worsen. He was placed in BiPAP therapy on March 18, after no response to progressive respiratory therapy and oxygenation methods were unsuccessful. His perfusion was poor. Intubation was recommend but refused by the family until March 22 in the late afternoon. It was noted when the patient was intubated and the BiPAP mask removed that the plaintiff had developed deep tissue injury on his nose. Further, on March 19, it was noted that the patient had some areas of deep tissue injury and excoriation on his lower back and sacral area.

    He was in the ICU at the hospital for two months, and during that time required a tracheostomy. He remained in the care of Hollywood Presbyterian Sub-acute Care Center ventilator dependent at the time of trial.

  • Plaintiff's Contentions:

    That the deep tissue that developed on plaintiff's nose was the result of not properly monitoring the BiPAP mask by respiratory therapy. The respiratory therapists were employed by a subcontractor, GEM Medical Management.

    That a protective barrier should have been placed when the mask was initially placed, and was not. Further, that the mask was not properly removed for "rest" periods, and that records which reflected mask changes were fraudulent or erroneous.

    As to the sacral/back wounds, plaintiff contended that nursing staff failed to properly assess (pursuant to the Braden Score) plaintiff's potential for development of skin breakdown and therefore failed to institute appropriate preventative measures, failed to timely reposition the plaintiff every two hours, and failed to keep the plaintiff clean. That all of these failures in care were not only negligent, but constituted elder abuse/neglect.

  • Defendant's Contentions:

    That both the skin injuries to plaintiff's nose and sacrum/back were the result of unavoidable medical conditions which pre-existed plaintiff's hospitalization, including his end-stage COPD, which ultimately required a tracheostomy and his ventilator dependency to survive.

    That all appropriate measures were taken by both respiratory care staff and nursing staff to prevent skin breakdown, but in order to save the plaintiff's life, he had to be placed in a position in bed (bed raised – known as semi-fowlers) which caused additional pressure to his lower back and sacrum in order to prevent him from decompensating. Offloading was done to alleviate pressure and mask changes were done, as well as routine skin checks on the nose in relation to the BiPAP mask. A protective barrier was placed the day following placement of the mask to prevent skin breakdown. Ultimately, the wounds developed despite the best of care. As the plaintiff's medical condition ultimately stabilized as his oxygenation was able to be sustained after the tracheostomy, the wounds were healed by June of 2016.

Injuries and Other Damages

  • Physical Injuries claimed by Plaintiff:

    Permanent scarring to his nose around the nostril area, and scarring to plaintiff's sacrum/buttocks/lower back.

  • Plaintiff claimed $2.5 million in non-economic damages and also asked for punitive damages.

Demands and Offers

  • Plaintiff Final Demand before Trial: $750,000

Additional Notes

Hollywood Presbyterian's previous CCP section 998 offer was $45,000, which expired about two weeks prior to trial. Offer was increased to $100,000 shortly before trial by Hollywood. Hollywood went up to $250,000 during trial and then withdrew.

Disclaimer

This is not an official court document. While the publisher believes the information to be accurate, the publisher does not guarantee it and the reader is advised not to rely upon it without consulting the official court documents or the attorneys of record in this matter who are listed above.

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