The lack of instructions on repositioning an elderly man who spent two weeks in a nursing home for rehabilitation after a fall contributed to his death, and a $30 million judgment against the facility and its corporate parent. 

The judgment against Pine Creek Care Center in Roseville, CA, and its corporate parent awards $5.9 million in compensatory damages and $25 million in punitive damages to the family of Sam Rios Jr., who died in March 2018. 

Providence Group, which owns Pine Creek, plans to appeal the ruling, according to a statement provided to McKnights Long-Term Care News on Wednesday. It called the punitive damages awarded Tuesday by a Superior Court jury in Sacramento, CA,  which included two nurses, “grossly exaggerated.”

Rios fell and fractured a hip in April 2017 and, after treatment at a Kaiser Permanente facility, entered Pine Creek for a short-term stay. Court filings indicate that Pine Creek staff observed redness on both heels and that Rios was at “high risk” for the skin breaking down. Dudensing said Kaiser Permanent transferred Rios with heel protectors but that Pine Creek never used them. 

Rios was released to continue recuperating at home two weeks later, but his family was not given any instructions on how to prevent pressure ulcers on his heels, said Dudensing, an elder abuse attorney, who accused the company of “prioritizing profits over patient care,” according to the Sacramento Bee.

The damage, though, was reportedly already done. Dudensing said the care plan at Pine Creek did not contain any documentation about preventing pressure sore. Also, Rios was repositioned only once in 42 shifts, according to the lawsuit filing. 

The Providence Group statement disputes Dudensing’s characterization of the care Rios received at the nursing home.

“We strongly believe his care at Pine Creek was reasonable, appropriate, and consistent with doctor’s orders,” the statement said, adding that defense attorneys were prevented from telling the jury that Pine Creek has a 5-star facility rating under CMS’ quality measures rating. The statement said that Rios left Pine Creek “with a considerably better ability to walk” then when he arrived.

Pine Creek was formerly owned by Plum Healthcare, which the Providence Group acquired in 2021.