• Epitaph for a young surfer Thursday, November 12, 2009

    Jeremiah Allen’s sad story has drawn to a close.

    Allen was 20 and attending University of Hawaii in 2003 when he suffered an accident while surfing. The accident left him semi-comatose and paraplegic.

    Wanting him closer to home, his parents moved him in January 2004 to CareMeridian, a 12-bed nursing home in Oxnard that specialized in caring for accident victims. He was dead six months later.

    A California Court of Appeal recounted the events leading to Allen’s death:

    On June 2, 2004, Sandra Marie Monterroso, a licensed vocational nurse, noticed that Allen’s feeding tube had fallen out. Rather than reinsert it into his stomach, she mistakenly placed it into his abdominal cavity.

    Within hours, Allen was sweating, grimacing and groaning. By the following morning, Allen was pale and feverish. A friend of Allen’s visited, saw that he was in distress and called for help.

    About an hour later, the staff called for an ambulance, but asked for a routine transfer of a patient with fever.  There was no indication that the matter was urgent. Paramedics arrived in eight minutes and found Allen was dead. The cause of death was peritonitis, a painful infection of the lining of the abdominal cavity which can develop and cause death within hours.

    State health authorities issued a AA citation against the facility, the second most severe, resulting in a $25,000 fine, and referred the case to the California Attorney General for criminal prosecution. Here is a copy of the citation.

    A Ventura County jury found Monterroso and nursing director Chad Josef Medlin not guilty of felony dependent adult abuse likely to produce great bodily harm or death.

    Medlin and Monterros asked the court to find them “factually innocent.”

    Ventura County Superior Court Judge Charles R. McGrath, finding there was no reasonable cause to believe that the crime had been committed. McGrath ordered destruction of all records.

    The California Attorney General’s office appealed, seeking a halt to the order to destroy arrest and other records.

    California Court of Appeal Justice Paul H. Coffee, writing for a unanimous court in a case of first impression, said that “notwithstanding the acquittals by the jury, after an independent review of all of the evidence there were objective factors that justified official action.”

    The justice overturned the ruling of “factual innocence” and stated that the facts call into question the actions of Medlin and Montorroso. People v. Chad Josef Medlin, 2nd Dist. Div. 6 (B209614)

    Meanwhile, Jeremiah’s parents, David and Joyce Allen, had sued the company that owns the facility. The couple quietly settled the case last month. Terms are sealed.

    –Steve Ingram

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Category: Appellate Reports;