$2M judgment issued in Bakersfield elder neglect, wrongful death case

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BAKERSFIELD, Calif. (KGET) — A Kern County judge has ordered a senior care service provider to pay $2 million in a wrongful death case where it was alleged the wife of an 80-year-old man was duped into transferring him from a skilled nursing facility to a place where he didn’t receive necessary care.

The judgment entered earlier this month against Wade Budney, who did business as “A Helping Hand Senior Care Services,” orders a total of $2,011,297.06 be paid to the wife of John Paul Owens and two of her children, plaintiffs’ attorneys said in a news release Thursday morning.

“I think his actions were absolutely reprehensible,” Tanya Alsheikh, an attorney with Chain Cohn Stiles, said of Budney.

John Owens, who went by Paul, should be enjoying his golden years, welcoming new grandchildren continuing his long-lasting marriage, Alsheikh said. Paul and Carol Owens had been married 57 years at the time of his death in 2018.

“I think the actions of Mr. Budney prevented that from happening,” Alsheikh said.

Budney said he is appealing the decision. He said the allegations against him are false, and said he was never given an opportunity to testify.

Budney said he never transferred anyone without their permission, and both the skilled nursing facility and Carol Owens gave him permission to move Paul Owens to the other facility. He said Carol Owens was aware of the services available at the second facility.

Last year, the firm settled out of court with the other defendants, Brookdale Riverwalk and Silvercrest Manor. Alsheikh said she could not discuss the terms of the settlements.

In February 2017, in retirement and suffering from Alzheimer’s, Paul Owens fell and broke his hip, according to the lawsuit. After surgery, he was placed at Brookdale, a skilled nursing facility, for rehabilitation. He was supposed to receive daily therapy, and Carol Owens planned for him to return home after a short time.

But the lawsuit says Brookdale failed to adequately treat Owens. He developed two large bed sores, and it’s alleged he was rarely bathed.

Then Carol Owens was told Medicare only covered a certain number of rehabilitation days, and that her husband would be discharged when Medicare denied payment, according to the suit.

Enter Budney, whom Brookdale relied on to assess Paul Owens and determine where he’d be sent, the suit says.

Budney fooled Carol Owens into agreeing to transfer her husband to Silvercrest Manor despite the owner of that facility telling Budney in text messages it was an inappropriate location for Owens’ needs, according to a Chain Cohn Stiles news release.

Further text messages revealed Budney was arranging to have medical records altered to make it appear Paul Owens was qualified for the facility, according to the release.

“It is believed that Budney did the foregoing for his financial gain, which was solely based upon his successful transfer of Paul Owens from one facility to another,” the release said.

In March 2017, Budney took Paul Owens to Silvercrest Manor, according to the suit. He stayed there a week before being transferred to Memorial Hospital, where staff found his blood glucose elevated, noticed pressure ulcers and determined his altered mental status was due to toxic encephalopathy.

He died in January 2018.

Paul Owens spent most of his life in Kern County. Born in Oklahoma in 1937, his family moved to McFarland when he was 4. He graduated from McFarland High School and served in the U.S. Army, working as a paratrooper.

In 1960, he and Carol married.

Paul Owens earned his teaching credential in 1962 and spent the next 38 years in the classroom. He enjoyed cross country running, and working with his hands.

“Ms. Owens never-ending love for her husband motivated her to unceasingly pursue this case and give him a voice,” Alsheik said in the release. “We are working to ensure that we hold individuals and companies accountable when they take advantage of a particularly vulnerable portion of our population, when they care more about their profits instead of the dignity and health of that individual who they have a responsibly toward.”

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