Elder Abuse, Wrongful Death Lawsuit Filed Against Defunct Breakers Care Facility

A wrongful death lawsuit was filed this week against the The Breakers of Long Beach and its corporate offices on behalf of an 83-year-old woman who died while she was a resident of the facility, alleging elder abuse and a causal relationship between the Breakers’ level of care and her death.

The suit was filed by Garcia, Artigliere & Medby in Los Angeles Superior Court last week on behalf of the deceased Rose Marie West, and it named The Breakers, the building’s owner Bernard Rosenson and Sign of the Dove, Rosenson’s company which, until last month, held a license to provide elder care at the facility. The 24-page lawsuit alleged elder abuse, negligence, negligent hiring and supervision, fraud and wrongful death, stating that the facility wrongfully withheld care from Ms. West, which resulted in a skin sore developing a severe bacterial staph infection that ultimately resulted in her death.

“The facility purposefully withheld information from Ms. West’s daughter on her mother’s condition in order to save face,” attorney Stephen Garcia said in a statement. “It is the facility’s responsibility to ensure their patients are safe and taken care. This facility’s outrageous behavior cost Ms. West her life.”

West was admitted to the Breakers facility in late 2013 due to her inability to care for herself because of complications from Alzheimer’s Dementia and throat cancer that made it difficult for her to swallow. The lawsuit states that at the time of her admittance the staff was aware that Ms. West’s condition not only required help with ambulation, but that because of her lack of mobility her skin was “at high-risk for skin breakdown and the development and worsening of dermal ulcers” which dictated that staff intervene by turning and positioning West every two hours.

In January 2014, West’s daughter was informed by the facility’s doctor that an ulcer on her mother’s leg had developed a Methicillin-resistant Staphylococcus aureus (MRSA) infection, one that West’s daughter claimed they were unaware of when confronted about the infection. MRSA infections are drug-resistant, sometimes deadly staph infections that can occur in health care settings like nursing homes if patients with wounds are kept in unsanitary conditions.

West’s daughter claimed that on multiple occasions while visiting her mother at the Breakers she observed that her mother was not being fed or medicated properly and the facility had cockroaches in the dresser drawers and walls of her mother’s room. West passed away January 22 of this year from what the lawsuit alleges were repeated failures to provide adequate care and safe dwellings.

The suit is not the first to be filed against the Breakers alleging elder abuse. Last year the facility was forced to pay hundreds of thousands of dollars in damages to a woman who suffered injuries while being cared for at the facility and two other lawsuits, including one involving the death of a 90-year-old resident, were filed against the Breakers in 2013. One of those cases was settled and the other is still in the process of being litigated.

The repeated allegations against the Breakers led the California Department of Social Services to seek a revocation of the building’s license to provide elder care in March 2014. The department’s filing stated that the Breakers failed to provide “basic care” resulting in the death of one of its residents in 2012. It also detailed a lack of cleanliness which violated health and safety codes, as the facility was found to have mice and roaches between March 2011 and 2014.

Rosenson filed for an appeal and the case was set to be heard before an administrative judge this month, but Rosenson settled with the state in March and forfeited the facility’s license, though he contended that he was not afforded his due process because the State wouldn’t work around his obligations as a full-time student.

“I was literally forced to sign a document I didn’t believe in,” Rosenson said in a closed-door press-conference at the Breakers earlier this month.

The building has been leased to Solid Landings, a for-profit company that provides gender-specific sober living facilities and drug-rehabilitation services. Members of the city’s Department of Development Services have been clear that the historic Downtown building is not zoned for a sober living facility, and that no legal mechanism exists to change that.

Seniors living at the facility were given a 60-day notice to vacate in the wake of Rosenson’s settlement with the State in late March, though those not requiring medical assistance were told they’d be able to remain at the Breakers. Rosenson said that Solid Landings would legally be able to provide the same level of services that the Breakers provided previously. Solid Landings has yet to announce what they plan to do with the building when the Breakers closes at the end of May and the new company moves in.

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Jason Ruiz has been covering City Hall for the Post for nearly a decade. A Long Beach resident, Ruiz graduated from Cal State Long Beach with a degree in journalism. He and his wife Kristina and, most importantly, their dog Mango, live in Long Beach. He is a particularly avid fan of the Dallas Cowboys and the UCLA Bruins, which is why he sometimes comes to work after the weekend in a grumpy mood.