Thu. Sep 28th, 2023

Guillermo Antonio Lopez, 43, an O.C. jail inmate, died of pneumonia on March 23, 2020, at Anaheim Global Medical Center. Now his family has made a deal with the County of Orange and will receive $750,000 to settle a lawsuit alleging County health workers failed to properly care for him.

Lopez had diabetes yet he continued to drink up to 14 beers a day. He was in jail serving a six-month sentence for driving under the influence and having a suspended license.

On March 28, 2019, the OCDA filed multiple charges against Lopez, including driving under the influence, false identification to a police officer, and driving with a suspended license for a DUI conviction. On January 16, 2020 Lopez pled guilty to the charges and he was sentenced to serve 180 days in jail.

On March 13, 2020, Lopez surrendered himself to Theo Lacy Jail Facility in the city of Orange. Upon arrival to Theo Lacy Jail Facility, an Orange County Health Care Agency (OCHCA) nurse conducted an intake medical screening of Lopez and found that Lopez was suffering from Type 2 diabetes and that he had been prescribed diabetes medication. Furthermore, the nurse learned that Lopez last consumed alcohol on March 12, 2020 and he usually consumed 12 to 14 beers a day. Lopez denied any flu like symptoms and was negative to all three COVID-19 questionnaires. Lopez was provided with detoxification medication and was placed in regular housing In Module F, Barracks F. Lopez was assigned to lower bunk 13, but ended up changing to the upper bunk 12.

On March 14, 2020, Lopez was climbing down his bunk and lost his footing. Lopez fell towards the floor and landed on his back. Lopez laid still on the ground for a moment, then stood up to his feet. As he walked away from his bunk, three deputies immediately checked on his welfare. Lopez was evaluated by medical staff. Lopez sustained a contusion and was cleared to return to regular housing.

On March 15, 2020, Lopez was seen by a registered nurse for a follow up on his fall from the previous day. Lopez denied having any chest pains, headaches, blurry vision, or lightheadedness.

On March 16, 2020 Lopez was transferred to Men’s Central Jail where he was housed in Module “C” Tank 11. Lopez was seen twice by medical staff. At the first checkup, Lopez reported a history of alcohol abuse. Lopez expressed that he previously suffered a seizure while withdrawing from alcohol approximately a month before. The doctor also noticed Lopez walk with a slight limp and that Lopez had a right thigh contusion. Lopez reported that he had fallen from his bunk. At his second checkup, Lopez saw a registered nurse. Lopez denied chest pain, shortness of breath, dizziness, or headaches.

On March 20, 2020, at approximately 4:28 a.m., Lopez had a temperature check. Lopez had a body temperature of 104.7 degrees. Lopez complained of body aches, fever, runny nose, headache, nausea and a cough. Lopez also appeared flush and had the chills. Lopez was masked and isolated in Module R-55, Cell 13. Lopez had been working the laundry detail two days prior and had been housed in the main jail with possible sick contacts. Lopez was put into an influenza protocol. Lopez was given Tylenol, Motrin, Gatorade and cooling measures. At around 8:51 a.m., Lopez was seen by medical staff and he showed signs of his health improving with a body temperature of 98.3 degrees. The plan was for Lopez to receive further temperature checks, increase hydration and stay isolated. At around 9:30 p.m., Lopez was seen by medical staff again. Lopez reported that he was feeling good and denied any cough, shortness of breath and fatigue. Lopez’ body temperature was 97.4 degrees. Lopez was given more Gatorade for fluid intake and was advised to notify staff if his conditions worsened or if there were any changes to his health. Furthermore, a swab was taken for COVID-19 and influenza analysis.

On March 21, 2020, a lab report showed that Lopez tested positive for Influenza A. Video surveillance showed medical staff meeting with Lopez. At around 2:43 a.m., medical staff met with Lopez. Documents referenced a vitals check and a Gatorade pitcher for hydration at 5:08:15 a.m. and 5:09:07 a.m. being given to Lopez; however, this was not observed on surveillance video. At 8:20 a.m., medical staff are seen going to Lopez’ cell, interacting with him, and Lopez drinking from a cup. A “Treatment Administration” sheet listed medication being administered to Lopez at 9:14:46 a.m., but this was not observed on video surveillance. At 10:48 a.m. a deputy and a medical staff member went to Lopez’ cell and the medical staff member took his temperature. Lopez had a body temperature of 98.6 degrees. At 11:15 a.m., a medical staff member appeared at Lopez’ cell and gave him a cup for him to hydrate. At 2:07 p.m., medical staff appear to talk to Lopez at his cell and give him medication. At around 8:21 p.m., surveillance video footage showed Lopez limping in his cell. At 9:21 p.m., medical staff appear to speak to Lopez briefly. At 10:19 p.m., surveillance video footage showed Lopez leaving his cell, limping, and walking very slowly to the door where medical staff was waiting. Lopez reached the door and obtained something from medical staff. Lopez then limped and walked slowly back to his cell. Throughout the day, deputies consistently conducted cell checks and walked by Lopez’ cell.

On March 22, 2020, Lopez’ lab results returned and were negative for COVID-19. At around 1:20 a.m., surveillance video footage showed Lopez in his cell sitting down with his head hanging. At around 3:00 a.m. Lopez left his Module and reentered shortly thereafter with a cup in his hand. At around 4:50 a.m. Lopez is seen waving. Lopez subsequently made a waving motion again. At approximately 5:29 a.m. while conducting cell checks, a deputy stopped at Lopez’ cell. At approximately 8:11 a.m. medical staff met with Lopez. For the next several hours Lopez remained in his cell moving around and at one point possibly stumbling. At around 12:08 p.m. a deputy approached Lopez’ cell and signaled a thumbs up motion to Lopez as he walked by. At around 1:00 p.m. medical staff and a deputy approached Lopez’ cell and assisted him. Later in the day, at around 2:01 p.m., a deputy checked on Lopez and motioned a thumbs up to Lopez. Then, at around 2:58 p.m., a deputy went to Lopez’ cell and they spoke briefly. At around 3:38 p.m. Lopez called his mother. Lopez discussed his physical condition and eventually decided to go to his cell and lie down, telling his mother he had a high fever. The phone call ended at 3:43 p.m.

At around 7:14 p.m. a deputy was conducting cell checks and stopped at Lopez’ cell. At around 9:11
p.m. medical staff and a deputy went to Lopez’ cell and appeared to give him medication and a cup to hydrate. Lopez’ drug administration history listed that medication was administered to Lopez at 10:03:54 p.m.; however this was not observed on surveillance video.

On March 23, 2020, at approximately 2:03 a.m. a deputy was conducting cell checks and conversed with Lopez for a short time. At around 2:46 a.m. surveillance video footage shows Lopez leaving his module and reenter at approximately 3:24 a.m. A “Treatment Administration” sheet listed a vitals and blood glucose check at 4:00:22 a.m. and 4:00:54 a.m. respectively; however this was not observed on surveillance video. At around 5:36 a.m., a deputy walked by Lopez’ cell to check on him and they appeared to talk to each other. At around 6:24 a.m., a deputy returned to Lopez’ cell and the deputy appears to look back, bring his hand below his chin, and move it side to side. This motion commonly means to “stop” something. UCI lab results came back and illustrated that Lopez’ sodium levels were low.

At 8:15 a.m. medical staff and a deputy approached Lopez’ cell and they appeared to be conversing. At around 8:30 a.m. an OCHCA nurse notified an OCHCA nurse practitioner of Lopez’ low sodium level. At around 8:46 AM a nurse practitioner and a deputy returned to Lopez’ cell and appeared to hand Lopez a cup. Lopez stated that he had flu-like symptoms for the last six days and he had been dealing with a cough, body aches, a fever and chills. At the moment, Lopez reported to feeling dizzy, nauseous, and unsteady. Lopez also was reported to be pale looking and lethargic and had unsteady gait when moving from his bunk to the chair in his cell. The nurse practitioner planned on having Lopez transferred to the emergency room for IV fluid hydration. At around 9:27 a.m. Lopez left his cell and walked towards the telephones. Video surveillance showed that Lopez appearing weak and with an unsteady gait. Lopez called his mother, discussed his medical condition and told her he was going to be transferred to the hospital. At around 9:31 a.m. Lopez got off the phone with his mother and sat at one of the common tables. Lopez then urinated and soiled himself while sitting at the table. Lopez subsequently cleaned himself up and took a shower.

At around 10:22 a.m. video surveillance showed Lopez attempting to exit the shower and he appeared to be unstable walking out. At around 10:24 a.m. Lopez walked towards the common tables with an unsteady gait, he hunched over, tried to grab onto the table, and fell forward to the ground onto the left side of his body. Shortly thereafter, deputies entered Module R-55 and summoned medical aid. At around 10:30 a.m. medical personnel entered into Module R-55 and rendered assistance. At around 10:45 a.m. Orange City Fire Department (OCFD) Paramedics arrived at Module R-55 to check on Lopez’ condition. Lopez was alert and complained of pain to his right leg, a leg that he mentioned he injured before. Fire personnel noticed there was bruising on Lopez’ right hip and thigh. Lopez also complained of head, neck, and back pain. It was also reported that Lopez seemed to be short of breath. However, Lopez explained he wasn’t short of breath, rather his mouth was just dry. OCFD cancelled medical transportation of Lopez to the emergency room because it was pre-determined that Lopez was to be transported to the hospital and because they only took critical patients. At around 10:54 AM OCFD left Module R-55 and Lopez returned to his cell.

At around 11:23 a.m. deputies approached Lopez’ cell with a wheelchair and transported Lopez to AGMC. At around 12:00 p.m. Lopez arrived at the AGMC Emergency Room (ER). After conducting an interview with the nurse who saw Lopez, it was determined that Lopez was suffering from shortness of breath and had a body temperature of 102.3 degrees. Lopez was also suffering from hallucinations in the ER and appeared to be trying to talk to his mother. Lopez was removed from the ER and taken to bed 2 at around 5:30 p.m.. Lopez was given Tylenol for his elevated body temperature. At around 7:55 p.m., the attending ER physician was called to assess Lopez’ condition, as Lopez went into cardiopulmonary arrest. The ER physician saw that Lopez was not ventilating properly. At 7:57 p.m., the physician intubated Lopez and cardiopulmonary resuscitation was performed. Lifesaving efforts were attempted but failed. The attending physician pronounced Lopez dead at 8:25 p.m.

On March 26, 2020 Forensic Pathologist Dr. Scott Luzi of Clinical and Forensic Pathology Services conducted an autopsy on the body of Lopez. At the conclusion of the autopsy, Dr. Luzi concluded that Lopez had abbesses to his left lung and a lung infection present. Furthermore, Dr. Luzi noticed Lopez had an enlarged heart and “suspicious” bruising to his left wrist and lower extremities. Dr Luzi did not determine the bruising to be life threatening. Dr. Luzi concluded that Lopez’ cause of death was “complications of pneumonia.” Furthermore, Dr. Luzi noted the following other conditions: hypertensive cardiovascular disease; cirrhosis associated with chronic alcohol abuse; and a history of influenza type A infection. Dr. Luzi determined that Lopez’ manner of death was natural.

Although the OCSD owed Lopez a duty of care, the OCDA’s investigation found that the evidence did not support a finding beyond a reasonable doubt that this duty was in any way breached, either intentionally or through criminal negligence. Rather, review of surveillance video, and all other relevant evidence reveals that OCSD personnel consistently exercised reasonable care in dealing with Lopez. Lopez was isolated from the general population after developing flu-like symptoms. He was given fluids, medication, and his temperature was checked daily. His well-being was checked hourly by deputies. Emergency medical attention was summoned as soon as he was found on the floor the morning of March 23 and he was hastily transferred to the Emergency Room. Although OCSD personnel conducted their duties in a diligent manner, they were not able to prevent Lopez from becoming severely ill and succumbing to his illness. The evidence supports a conclusion that OCSD personnel conducted their duties in a reasonable manner and responded effectively and appropriately upon discovery of Lopez’ situation.

The Lopez family’s lawsuit alleged that county health workers ignored several red flags that he was in poor health and should have taken him to the hospital sooner.

Orange County Supervisor Don Wagner did not vote for the settlement. In fact he was the only County Supervisor to reject the deal. He said “I question whether there was liability. The man was suffering from the effects of the things he had done to himself.”

The O.C. Board of Supervisors voted to accept the settlement by a 4-1 vote on Tuesday, July 25.

The taxpayers will ultimately be the ones who pay for the settlement with the Lopez family although it is quite clear that Lopez was the one who ruined his own health.

By Editor

The New Santa Ana blog has been covering news, events and politics in Santa Ana since 2009.

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