Brookdale CCRC reaches $1 million settlement in wrongful death suit

A California continuing care retirement community operated by Brookdale Senior Living has agreed to a $1 million settlement in a wrongful death and elder abuse lawsuit.

Brookdale Fountaingrove, formerly known as Emeritus at Santa Rosa, agreed to the settlement on Tuesday, resolving a suit that followed the 2013 death of resident Eleanor Buckingham.

Emeritus staff noticed a pressure ulcer on Buckingham's back when she was admitted to the facility's skilled nursing unit in November 2012, but they did not take immediate action, her family's attorneys said. Buckingham stayed in skilled nursing until January 15, 2013 — the last day skilled nursing would be covered by Medicare, according to the suit — when she was downgraded to assisted living.

A specialist examined Buckingham's worsening ulcer and sent her to a hospital, where she died of sepsis — 12 days after being downgraded from skilled nursing.

The lawsuit claims the facility's staff withheld care for Buckingham's ulcer until it became infected. It also alleges the facility cut corners by not properly training staff, and “let profits dictate its treatment decisions,” the Santa Rosa Press Democrat reported.

Emeritus at Santa Rosa was renamed after Emeritus was purchased by Brookdale in 2014. Changes were made to the facility following the merger, Shawna Zody, public relations manager for Brookdale, said in a statement to McKnight's.

“While there were defenses to the allegations, we ultimately decided to resolve this case to put our focus on what matters most, the health and well-being of our residents,” Zody said. “In doing so, we'll be guided by our mission of enriching the lives of those we serve.”