In November 2017, Jeffrey Lewelling – a wheelchair-bound 55-year old man living in a nursing home after suffering partial paralysis and mental impairment after being struck by a car while on his bicycle in 2004 – was given a cigarette lighter by a staff member of the Mission View Health Center in San Luis Obispo, and left on his own to smoke a cigarette on an outside patio. When staff members next noticed Lewelling after hearing his screams of agony, his body was engulfed in flames on the patio. He suffered third-degree burns and spent a month in a intensive burn unit, having to undergo three skin graft surgeries.
Although Lewelling, like other residents, was permitted to smoke one cigarette per hour, the nursing home’s negligence in providing Lewelling with a lighter without supervision (the policy was for staff members to light the cigarettes for residents without giving them lighters or matches) and not providing Lewelling with a flame retardant gown was a violation of California state law, specifically the rights afforded to nursing home residents.
Johnson Moore has filed a lawsuit on behalf of Mr. Lewelling against Compass Health for the breach of legal duties committed by the staff of Mission View Health.
Compass Health’s Dependent Adult Abuse and Neglect, Negligence, and Violation of Patient’s Rights
In filing the lawsuit – which has been pursued by Jeffrey Lewelling’s father Floyd Lewelling of Atascadero, on behalf of his son – Johnson Moore alleges that Compass Health is liable for Lewelling’s injuries and the traumatic pain and suffering he has endured and will continue to endure based on the negligence of the staff of Mission View Health Center, as well as their violations of California law regarding the rights of dependents adults living in nursing homes.
The younger Lewelling will never fully recover from the burns and is permanently and unrecognizably scarred. In addition to his physical injuries and need for ongoing medical care, Mr. Lewelling continues to suffer excruciating pain and mental anguish as a result of his burns.
While all employers have a legal duty to prevent employees from, among other things, taking actions which endanger clients and those on their property, nursing homes have additional legal duties under California law to avoid neglect and otherwise endangering elderly persons and dependent adults in their care. Leaving the mentally impaired and partially paralyzed Lewelling alone on a patio with a lighter was a violation of those duties.
As Johnson Moore attorney Greg Johnson told The Tribune, “The majority of cases we handle involve mistakes that people make; there’s a medical component, some level of skill…this case strikes me as just basic common sense.”
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At Johnson Moore, we know full well that elder abuse victims and their families often face stonewalling, denial, and even intimidation when they try to take action against elder abuse. Our attorneys are compassionate and determined defenders of the elderly, and we will take the time to fully understand your concerns and assess what steps we can take on your behalf. Even if you are unsure of whether you have a valid claim, we look forward to hearing from you to help you explore your options for obtaining the justice you deserve. Contact Johnson Moore today to schedule a free consultation.