Wrongful Death Case Against Owners of Sacramento Care Home

By Ramon Coronado, Bee Staff Writer

"Last month, state officials filed license revocation proceedings against the Costeas."

Three daughters of an 80-year-old woman who died in a November fire at a Citrus Heights residential care home are suing the facility's owners. "People who should be in skilled nursing facilities are ending up in these types of facilities. This is an alarming trend," said Kathryn A. Stebner, the lawyer who filed the wrongful death suit. e Sacramento Superior Court suit was filed Wednesday in behalf of the daughters of Marjorie Leroux, one of three elderly women who perished in the fast moving inferno at 7092 Canevalley Circle. Three other residents were rescued in the late night blaze by neighbors. The suit seeks unspecified general and punitive monetary damages and alleges that the owners, Teodor and Michaela Costea, committed elder abuse, fraud and knowingly violated state safety codes governing care homes. Reached by phone through one of their employees, the Costeas declined to comment on the suit Thursday.

Last month, state officials filed license revocation proceedings against the Costeas, citing numerous allegations including instances where their employees improperly stored medications, didn't receive proper training and failed to keep a working fire extinguisher. The Costeas have filed a former denial of the allegations and a hearing is expected within 90 days, said Shirley Washington, deputy director for public affairs at the California Department of Social Services, which is attempting to yank the Costeas' license for the burned facility and three other homes in Roseville and Citrus Heights. Among the state's allegations the Costeas deny is a claim that their employees allowed a resident with dementia to smoke in her room. The cause of the blaze, which destroyed the single-level ranch style home located in a residential neighborhood, is still listed as undetermined, said Christian Pebbles spokesman for the Metropolitan Fire District. "This investigation is large and tedious and is still in progress," Pebblessaid. Local and state fire officials have been critical of the home's operators for not having a sprinkler system that could have saved the women 's lives. State law, however, does not require automated sprinklers in facilities like the one operated by the Costeas that care for six or less people. Also killed in the fire were Virginia Esler, 84, and Doris Bower, 86, who died the night of the Nov. 26 fire, which started in the back of the home and quickly spread throughout house. Leroux died Dec. 2 from cardiopulmonary arrest and smoke inhalation.

"People who's should be in skilled nursing facilities are ending up in these types of facilities. This is an alarming trend."

- Kathryn Stebner

Responding firefighters described three fast acting neighbors as "heroes" for rushing to the aide of the surviving residents. Aside from the Costea's, also named as defendants are Virgil and Ligia Popa and Eloise and Jeremy Costea, who are described as caretakers of the Canevalley facility. The suit was filed in behalf of daughters Lynda Williams of Placer County, Debra Neville of San Diego County and Judy Staeps of the state of Washington. According to the suit, Leroux was resident of the facility, described as Home Place I, since the summer of 2004. One of her daughters paid the Costea's $2,950 per month for her mother's care.

Prior to her admission to Home Place I, Leroux was a resident of another facility owned by the Costeas for two years that was called Crown Point Manor.

"While at Crown Point Manor Leroux was noted to have a steady decline in her physical and mental condition. Her Alzheimer's had progressed significantly," the suit said. "By the time she was admitted to Home Place I Leroux was completely dependent on all of her activities of daily living," the suit said.

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