Local News

Wednesday, May 21 2014 06:27 PM

Nursing home in Arvin sued in death of resident

BY STEVEN MAYER Californian staff writer smayer@bakersfield.com

The granddaughters of a nursing home patient who died last year have filed a lawsuit against a skilled nursing facility in Arvin, accusing it of enabling the sexual assault of their 93-year-old grandmother by a certified nursing assistant days before her death -- and covering up previous assaults, thereby making possible the injuries to their grandmother.

Bakersfield attorney Daniel Rodriguez, who is representing the alleged victim's granddaughters, both Bakersfield residents, filed the lawsuit Wednesday in Kern County Superior Court. Although the lawsuit does not mention a dollar figure, civil suits of this sort have the potential to be worth millions of dollars, Rodriguez said.

According to the lawsuit, the alleged victim -- The Californian does not publish the names of victims or alleged victims of sexual assault -- had been a resident of Evergreen Arvin Healthcare since August 2001. The lawsuit alleges that the plaintiffs' grandmother was assaulted on May 25, 2013, by one of Evergreen's certified nursing assistants, causing vaginal tearing and significant bleeding.

The male nursing assistant is not identified in the lawsuit.

The elderly patient died 18 days later, on June 12. While the bleeding and trauma was not listed as the cause of death, Rodriguez contends the trauma, both physical and emotional, ultimately led to the woman's death.

"The CNA who committed the assault had committed a reported sexual assault just days before the sexual assault (of the alleged victim) but had never been suspended pending investigation nor disciplined by Evergreen," the lawsuit states.

As a result, the patient "was put in a situation of great vulnerability and accessibility to a known predator because of her physical condition, age and nonverbal status."

Evergreen Executive Director Cody Rasmussen referred all questions to a corporate attorney in Vancouver, Wash. A message left Wednesday afternoon was not immediately returned.

"Schools and nursing homes are similar in that we entrust to them the care of the most vulnerable members of our community," Rodriguez said.

Employees of such facilities, by law, must be subject to criminal background checks, and must be vetted thoroughly, he said.

"Whenever something like this happens, state law requires them to immediately report the incident -- and to immediately suspend the employee," Rodriguez said.

But another assault, which allegedly occurred a few days earlier, was not handled appropriately.

"For whatever reason, Evergreen did not report the incident, and did not suspend the employee," he said.

The Arvin Police Department was notified of the assault and began an investigation, but the results are still pending.

Meanwhile, the whereabouts of the certified nursing assistant are unknown, Rodriguez said.

"This is morally outrageous," he said. "It haunts the family that her final days came about because she was violated and humiliated. No one deserves that kind of ending to their life."

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