California Nursing Home Negligence: Widower Wants Justice in Wife's Death

December 31, 1969

Four years after the death of his wife, Don Esco, 81, appeared in court where he watched the two nurses accused of California elder abuse plead not guilty to the felony charges. Esco's wife Johnnie Esco, 77, died after spending 13 days trying to recuperate from pneumonia at the El Dorado Care Center.

Johnnie's family had filed a California nursing home and abuse lawsuit against the assisted living facility in 2009 alleging that negligent nursing care contributed to the deterioration of her health. The wrongful death case, in which The Esco family also contended that Johnnie's medical records had been doctored, has been settled.

The two nurses accused of negligence, Rebecca LeAn Smith, 38, and Donna Darlene Palmer, 58, were only charged in court earlier this month. The state attorney general agrees with the Esco family's allegation that poor nursing care contributed to her death and suffering.

An attorney for one of the defendants, however, is questioning the filing of the felony California elder abuse allegations now after the state, which investigated Johnnie's death in 2008, did not file criminal charges then. It wasn't until last year when The Sacramento Bee published a series of stories about the doctoring of documents at assisted living facilities that the Bureau of Medi-Cal Fraud and Elder Abuse reopened its criminal probe into Johnnie's passing.

"It is unfortunate that there are sick and elderly patients at assisted living facilities that suffer because a nursing home fails to provide them with the care that they need," said Anaheim nursing home abuse lawyer Vincent Howard. "Compound that with neglect or abuse and you have residents whose health and physical safety are placed in great jeopardy."

Johnnie had been transferred to El Dorado Care Center following a stay at a hospital. At the time, not only was she trying to regain her health, but she was also suffering from Alzheimer's disease, chronic constipation, and fecal impaction. During her stay at the nursing home, she developed bruises on face, wrist, and chest, and the skin on one of her fingers became torn. Yet the assisted living facility never filed a report that she may have become the victim of possible California nursing home.

Her family's California wrongful death lawsuit contends that the nursing home didn't follow her care plan, including the monitoring of her constipation and making sure she was administered her laxatives. Also, Johnnie went five days without having a bowel movement yet her chart noted a 0 for constipation during that time. There was even one day when her chart documented her having an extra large bowel movement (medical experts and nursing staff would later say that this was not likely given Johnnie's condition.)

"It is nursing home negligence for an assisted living facility not to follow a patient's care plan, accurately document any changes or problems with his/her health, and provide the resident with immediate medical care when required," said Orange County, California elder abuse attorney Vincent Howard.

Nurses Plead Not Guilty to Elder Abuse Charges in Placerville Case, In El Dorado County, April 10, 2012

Woman's death raises questions about nursing home medical records, The Sacramento Bee, September 19, 2011

Bureau of Medi-Cal Fraud and Elder Abuse


More Blog Posts:

Negligence and Abuse Rampant at California State Mental Facilities, California Injury Lawyers, April 17, 2012

California Nursing Home Fall Leads to $75K Fine, California Injury Lawyers, October 31, 2011

Orange County, California Nursing Home Negligence?: Newport Beach and Yorba Linda Facilities Fined Over Patient Deaths, California Injury Lawyers, December 20, 2011

Assisted living facilities need to employ enough staff to provide each patient with the nursing care he/she needs. Not only that but workers must be properly trained in handling all aspects of care, from medical care to feeding to proper cleaning and hygiene. They also must have the skills and experience to deal with specific conditions, such as Dementia and other complicated health issues. Abuse of any kind is a crime.

If you suspect Anaheim nursing home negligence, contact Howard Law, PC today and ask for your free case evaluation with Orange County, California personal injury lawyer Vincent Howard.