Elderly woman develops pressure ulcer during hospitalization after fall. $1.7M. Butte County.


Hospital staff fails to follow procedures.

The Case

  • Case Name: Patsy Newton v. Enloe Medical Center
  • Court and Case Number: Butte County / 21CV01091
  • Date of Verdict or Judgment: Wednesday, July 14, 2021
  • Date Action was Filed: Friday, May 29, 2020
  • Type of Case: Elder Abuse
  • Judge or Arbitrator(s): Hon. Tamara L.Mosbarger
  • Plaintiffs:
    Patsy Newton
    Harold Newton
  • Defendants:
    Enloe Medical Center
  • Type of Result: Jury Verdict

The Result

  • Gross Verdict or Award: $1,736,180.49
  • Economic Damages:

    Past: $121,733.97

    Future: $75,100

  • Non-Economic Damages:

    Past: $225,000

    Future: $225,000

    Loss of consortium for Harold: $50,000

The Attorneys

  • Attorney for the Plaintiff:

    The Law Firm of Sean R. Laird by Sean R. Laird, Sacramento.

  • Attorney for the Defendant:

    Schuering Zimmerman & Doyle by Robert Zimmerman and Ian Sharg, Sacramento.

The Experts

  • Plaintiff’s Medical Expert(s):
    Steven Fugaro, M.D., pressure injury and standards of care.
    Debra Bakerjian, M.D., pressure injury and standards of nursing care.
    Christopher Stephenson, M.D., physical medicine and future care.

    Cloie Johnson, care planning.

  • Defendant's Medical Expert(s):
    Mark Sockell, M.D., standards of care.
    Kwon Lee, M.D., pressure wound causation.
    Miranda Van Horn, RN, BSN, CLCP, care planning costs.
  • Plaintiff's Technical Expert(s):

    Ronald Pomares, economics.

Facts and Background

  • Facts and Background:

    Plaintiff, while stepping off the curb near her car following church services, slipped and landed on her right side, fracturing her right hip. Within a short period she was transported to Enloe Medical Center and placed in a supine position in the ER. Upon her admission, plaintiff had no pressure injury to her sacral area, had no history of pressure ulcers to her sacral area, had no conditions that disposed her developing pressure ulcers. Plaintiff, like most 81 year-old hip fracture patients, was nearly completely reliant upon staff to keep her safe and maintain the integrity of her skin. She could not turn and reposition herself, was placed in bucks traction, further limiting her ability to turn and reposition herself, and was in a great deal of pain. Plaintiff required a minimum of two people at one time to help turn and reposition her to release pressure to her sacral area that would inevitably break down the underlying skin and muscle if not relieved. 

    The failures of staff to turn and reposition plaintiff are reflected in the chart, where documentation of these tasks is blank for hours at a time, and where staff admitted they had not documented the care and did not have a recollection of providing the care to plaintiff.

    On the sixth day of plaintiff's hospital stay, staff discovered an unstageable deep tissue injury to her sacral area that devolved into a Stage IV wound. Defendant reported the wound to the Department of Public Health as a hospital-acquired pressure ulcer. Just months before Ms. Newton’s incident, the Department of Public Health had required Enloe Medical Center to review 100% of the charts involving hospital-acquired pressure ulcers because there had been documented failings with regard to these life-threatening wounds.

    The day after defendant discovered the wound and informed the family, the hospital discharged her without following any of their policies and procedures for working with the family for this "adverse event," which required informing the CEO of hospital of the event. Plaintiff required extensive rehabilitation and care following her discharge from Enloe Medical Center.

  • Plaintiff's Contentions:

    That defendant's managing agents neglected to institute policies and procedures, oversight and supervision to keep patients like Patsy Newton safe.

    That maintaining intact skin on a dependent patient like plaintiff was baseline care that all competent staff would know was critical to her overall health and well-being. Staff failed to follow the baseline plan of care for Ms. Newton. They failed to turn and reposition plaintiff, and violated the hospital's own policies and procedures as it relates to turning and repositioning high-risk residents like plaintiff. 

    Further, that defendants were aware of pressure ulcers occurring in their facility.

  • Defendant's Contentions:

    Defendants contend that plaintiff's wound was caused by her pre-admission health conditions, including excess weight, macular degeneration, type-2 diabetes (which she did not have), and heart conditions. Defendants alternately contended that plaintiff's wound was caused entirely during her hip surgery.

Injuries and Other Damages

  • Physical Injuries claimed by Plaintiff:

    Massive, stage IV infected pressure ulcer. Rehabilitation needs. 

  • Husband: Loss of consortium.

Additional Notes

Attorney fees and costs: $1,039,346.52