FRESNO, Calif. (CN) — A family claims in court that a nursing home employee assaulted their mother by hitting her in the head with a showerhead after telling her to "shut up" because she was crying from a fall that broke both her wrists.
The late Rosario Navarro's family sued Manning Gardens Care Center and its owner Ron Kinnersley on June 14 in Superior Court, seeking punitive damages for elder abuse, wrongful death and assault and battery.
The lengthy complaint claims that Manning Gardens has been cited repeatedly for substandard care, and that one reason for this is that it siphons public money to Kinney and another one of his businesses rather than spending it on staffing and medical services.
Rosario Navarro suffered from liver and kidney failure and was unable to walk on her own, and Manning Gardens was supposed to care for her around the clock, the family says.
In February, staff members helped Navarro to the bathroom, placed her on the toilet and then left her unattended "for an extensive amount of time," according to the complaint.
Unable to get the staff's attention with a call device or by yelling, "and after having waited on the toilet for an unreasonably long period of time, Rosario Navarro got up from the toilet to go back to bed. When she stood up, she fell forward and hit her head," the family says. And as she tried to break her fall, she fractured both her wrists.
"Rosario Navarro then began crying from pain to her arms; still however, no one came for several minutes and repeated yells and screams of pain," the complaint continues.
When staff members finally arrived, they scolded Navarro, yelled at her, and rather than call 911, the staff "put her in the shower and told her to 'shut up' and 'stop crying.' As Rosario Navarro continued to cry, facility staff [defendant] Does 1-5 hit her over the head with the removable showerhead. Frightened, Rosario Navarro became silent," the family says.
"Ultimately, when Rosario Navarro was taken to the hospital, X-rays confirmed that the defendants had been attempting to fraudulently conceal the fact that Rosario Navarro had suffered several fractures in her wrists as a result of the wrongful withholding of required care by the defendants. The blows to the head by the defendants also caused significant irreversible head trauma," the family says.
Navarro died on March 18.
The family claims that Manning Gardens the "siphoning of funds and resources" to Kinney is exemplified by, among other things, paying $201,000 in "rent" in 2014 to Care Chateau LLC, "a separate entity wholly owned by co-defendant Ron Kinnersley."
"Simply stated the facility was drained of $201,000 in cash resources for non-clinical 'phantom services' relating to which any resources returned in exchanged for this expenditure is nowhere near equivalent in value to the payment," the complaint states.
It adds that this payment was confirmed under penalty of perjury in a submission to the California Office of Statewide Planning and Development, as was a separate item of $55,000 in "debt" owed to Kinnersley.
"There are no bases for these transactions or expenses," the complaint states. "No written agreement to memorialize these transactions. Simply stated, this is simply a siphoning of funds and assets between the two in recognition of the reality that the two entities operate as one."
And all along, the family says, Manning Gardens retains as many residents as possible to make more money, while offering nonexistent or subpar services.
"This scheme has resulted in a lucrative business model at the facility and their governing body as in 2014 alone, the facility collected $159,332 from Medicare, $2,542,971 from Medi-Cal and $82,985 from 'self-pay,'" the complaint states.
It adds: "As a result, the facility is repeatedly issued deficiencies by the Department of Public Health for failure to provide the patient care they have promised and are required to perform as a licensed healthcare facility."
The family says state regulators cited Manning Gardens on Aug. 2, 2015 for "ignoring the complaints and of the residents and their family members in regard to the conditions present in the facility" and cited on the same date "for over-packing the facility bedrooms with more residents than are allowed under code, in violation of 42 CFR §483.70."
The 20-page complaint continues: "On Aug. 8, 2014, the defendants were cited for failure to have written policies and procedures that prohibit mistreatment, neglect, and abuse of residents and misappropriation of residents' property in violation of 42 CFR §483.13(d); in fact during the survey, the Department of Public Health found that its employees were not licensed by the appropriate boards to conduct the job duties."
After citing specific shortcomings noted by the California Department of Public Health, the family says that "this systematic failure to monitor residents" led to their mother's death.
"These deficiencies and others are a prima facie illustration of the facility's intent to willfully and systematically withhold the care and treatment which is necessary to preserve the health and safety of their residents," the family says.
They seek punitive damages for elder abuse, assault and battery, wrongful death, negligence and negligent hiring and supervision.
They are represented by William Artigliere of Long Beach, who did not immediately return an emailed request for comment Thursday night
Ron Kinnersley did not return an after-hours phone call requesting comment.
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