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Lawsuit accuses Chanticleer Home owners of negligence, fraud
Santa Cruz Sentinel
SANTA CRUZ -- Chanticleer Home, which is facing a state order to close May 14, also faces a lawsuit by a resident alleging reckless misconduct, negligence and fraud. The suit seeks unspecified punitive damages.
The lawsuit was filed in December by Santa Cruz attorney David Fulton on behalf of David Baxter, 76, who moved a year ago to Chanticleer Home, a 48-bed residential care home for the elderly in Santa Cruz.
Baxter, who suffered memory loss, cut his right foot in the summer while walking the grounds barefoot. The wound became infected, which was diagnosed after Baxter's son took him to urgent care, and required hospitalization and surgery in August.
The lawsuit alleges the longtime owners of Chanticleer Home, Martha and Silvio Tufo, failed to provide basic services required by state law, which include regular observation of the resident's physical condition and notifying his family and physician of changes.
The lawsuit further alleges that money paid by Baker did not go toward his care but to increase profits, and that the owners knew when they applied for a state license their facility was inadequately staffed, employees inadequately trained and medication assistance inadequately provided.
Baxter's son, who lives in Boulder Creek, signed the admission agreement, agreeing to pay $3,500 a month for basic services plus the escort fee for medical appointments.
The Tufos were in meetings Wednesday and did not comment.
At last count, the facility was home to 29 people.
The shutdown order, issued Friday, shocked families who have been satisfied with care of their relatives. Peggy Panda said her mother, who had a stroke 10 years ago, is treated with respect, kindness and competency.
"Martha and Silvio Tufo and their staff at Chanticleer Home have worked miracles with our mother," she wrote in a letter to state officials. "And they do it at a cost to us that is less than other facilities in the area."
Aptos resident Greg Cole said he was impressed with the home's cleanliness and the staff's helpfulness. His father, who has Parkinson's and dementia and uses a wheelchair, moved there in October.
"My dad needs a lot of attention, and I could tell he was getting it," Cole said.
Family members who appealed to county officials for help were told it's impossible to bring in another administrator in time to keep Chanticleer Home open. A meeting has been scheduled for 6:30 p.m. today at the Live Oak Senior Center for families to learn about their options.
The state Department of Social Services has been closely monitoring the home for two years after a female resident in her 80s died two days after falling outside her patio. Violations since then included a resident's pressure sore reaching stage 4 without treatment and failure to report another resident's pressure sore. Earlier violations included ants in the bed of a nonambulatory resident, a resident who wandered away and another who was taken away without permission.
In December, Elizabeth Tuckwell, counsel for the state Department of Social Services, recommended revocation of the Tufos' license.
After 16 days of hearings, administrative law judge David Benjamin signed the revocation order April 15. Jennifer Schuyler, who testified along with Baxter's son, contends the state did the right thing.
"Just one person being lost, injured or cared for inappropriately is enough" to question a care facility's abilities, she said.
"This is the first time we've ever seen this happen," Fulton said. "It's pretty draconian."
His firm, Cartright, Scruggs, Fulton & Walther, has sued other elder care facilities but none of the homes closed. Often the state gives a facility time to improve.
"This wasn't an isolated instance," said Fulton, who has heard from two other families regarding Chanticleer Home. "Caring for 80 percent of the population isn't going to cut it."