Crime

Elderly woman raped at Arroyo Grande Care Center, lawsuit alleges

A separate criminal investigation into the rape allegation has been underway for nearly a year, an Arroyo Grande Police Department spokesman confirmed Monday.
A separate criminal investigation into the rape allegation has been underway for nearly a year, an Arroyo Grande Police Department spokesman confirmed Monday. jjohnston@thetribunenews.com

A lawsuit filed Friday alleges that a 78-year-old Grover Beach woman was raped by an employee at the Arroyo Grande Care Center in September 2015 while she was recovering from surgery.

Mark Roppolo of Grover Beach filed a lawsuit in San Luis Obispo Superior Court alleging that his mother was abused while under the care of the nursing facility, which is owned by Grover Beach-based Compass Health Inc. A separate criminal investigation by the Arroyo Grande Police Department has been underway for nearly a year, a department spokesman confirmed Monday.

Roppolo is claiming negligence, elder abuse, willful misconduct, and negligent and intentional infliction of emotional distress. He is seeking an unspecified amount of general and punitive damages, as well as the cost of attorneys’ fees.

Roppolo’s attorney, Jessie Hill, did not return several calls for comment Monday. Calls to administrators at Arroyo Grande Care Center and Compass Health also were not returned.

Lawsuits represent only one side of the story, and neither the Arroyo Grande Care Center nor Compass Health has responded to the complaint in court.

The Tribune is not naming the patient because she is an alleged victim of a sex crime. The lawsuit does not go into detail about the alleged crimes nor does it name the employee who allegedly committed them, but according to the filing, the alleged crimes occurred while the woman was in the care of the facility between Aug. 8 and Sept. 12, 2015.

The woman, who had been in the care of her son for about 10 years, had a total knee replacement operation in June 2015. As a result of the operation, the woman began to suffer from “mental problems which had never existed before,” the complaint reads. She was transferred to Arroyo Grande Care Center to complete her rehabilitation.

According to the lawsuit, while at the facility, the woman was raped by an employee. The lawsuit further alleges that the care center’s staff neglected to monitor and adequately care for the woman and “allowed the assault to happen.”

As a result of the attack, the patient’s mental health continued to deteriorate, and she now lives in a nursing home in Santa Maria, the lawsuit states.

In addition to failing to monitor and care for the woman, the lawsuit states that the Arroyo Grande Care Center was “not careful” in the hiring and screening of its employees.

Arroyo Grande police Cmdr. Mike Martinez said Monday that the department has an open investigation into a report of a “crime of a sexual nature” involving the patient named in the lawsuit and the Arroyo Grande Care Center.

Martinez said that investigation was initiated in September 2015, but he could not release further details because the case remains ongoing.

A case management conference for the civil case is scheduled for Dec. 1 in San Luis Obispo Superior Court.

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