Wrongful death suit accuses Port Arthur nursing home of failing to adequately treat patient

By Kelly Holleran | Aug 12, 2013

The relatives of a recently deceased man blame staff at a Port Arthur nursing home for causing his death, saying they allowed the man to develop severely infected pressure ulcers and to become dehydrated.

Glenda Washington, Gwendolyn King, Janice King, Karen Field, Laura Washington-Allen, Jael Joseph, Levi Washington III and Todderick Washington filed a lawsuit July 31 in Jefferson County District Court against Southwest LTC-Gulf Healthcare Ltd., doing business as Gulf Health Care Center–Port Arthur.

In their complaint, the plaintiffs claim Levi Washington Jr. became severely dehydrated and developed pressure ulcers during his stay at Gulf Health Care, 6600 Ninth Ave., from March 28, 2012, through May 9, 2012.

“On April 10, 2012, two weeks after admission, a wound assessment performed found a Stage III sacral pressure ulcer with slough, a mild odor and necrotic tissue,” the suit states. “By April 16, 2012, the pressure ulcer had significantly worsened, with eschar formation and an increased amount of necrotic tissue.”

Because of the worsening state of his pressure ulcers, Levi Washington Jr. was admitted to the Medical Center of Southeast Texas on April 18, 2012. At the hospital, he was also diagnosed with urinary tract infection and hypernatremia, which is a “dangerous sodium imbalance that suggests patient was receiving a grossly inadequate water intake,” the complaint states.

After he was stabilized, Levi Washington Jr. was allowed to return to Gulf Healthcare Center, but landed in the hospital again on April 25, 2012, due to recurring pressure sores, the plaintiffs claim.

“Upon readmission to the Medical Center of Southeast Texas emergency room, patient was diagnosed with pneumonia, fever, and unstageable pressure ulcers to his coccyx and left buttocks, both of which displayed eschar formation, necrosis, purulent drainage, and a foul odor,” the suit states. “Patient’s white blood cell count was also found to be dangerously high, indicating the presence of a severe infection.”

Again, Levi Washington Jr. was stabilized and returned to Gulf Healthcare Center on April 27, 2012, but began running a high fever on May 9, 2012. For the final time, Levi Washington Jr. was admitted to the emergency room at the Medical Center of Southeast Texas, according to the complaint.

In addition to severe ulcers, hospital staff diagnosed Levi Washington Jr. with sepsis, severe dehydration and malnutrition, the suit states.

“Patient’s condition would require aggressive interventions and treatments for even a small chance of recovery,” the complaint says. “After thoroughly discussing these aggressive options with plaintiff’s doctors and nurses, patient’s family decided to transfer patient to hospice for end-of-life care.”

On May 22, 2012, Levi Washington Jr. died of aspiration pneumonia, the plaintiffs claim.

The plaintiffs say they and Levi Washington Jr. experienced mental anguish, physical pain, suffering, physical disfigurement and emotional distress and incurred medical costs because of the way he was treated at the nursing home. They also say they lost Levi Washington Jr.’s consortium, companionship and society; incurred funeral costs; and lost their inheritance.

The plaintiffs blame Gulf Healthcare Center for causing Levi Washington Jr.’s injuries, saying staff failed to prevent his ulcers, failed to appropriately treat the ulcers once they had developed and failed to follow the guidelines outlined under the Nursing Home Reform Act of 1987, which requires sufficient staffing levels of people who are properly trained and supervised.

In their complaint, the plaintiffs seek actual, general, special, exemplary and punitive damages, plus pre- and post-judgment interest, costs and other relief the court deems just.

Robert M. Wharton and Dana E. Helms of McIver Brown Law Firm in Houston will be representing them.

The case has been assigned to Judge Bob Wortham, 58th District Court.

Case No. A194-583

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