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Olutunde v. Iowa Department of Human Services

Court of Appeals of Iowa

December 5, 2018

ROMOKE OLUTUNDE, Plaintiff-Appellant,

          Appeal from the Iowa District Court for Linn County, Patrick R. Grady, Judge.

         Plaintiff appeals the district court decision affirming the ruling of the Iowa Department of Human Services finding plaintiff committed dependent adult abuse. AFFIRMED.

          James R. Hinchliff and Andrew B. Howie of Shindler, Anderson, Goplerud & Weese, PC, West Des Moines, for appellant.

          Thomas J. Miller, Attorney General, and Charles K. Phillips, Assistant Attorney General, for appellees.

          Heard by Tabor, P.J., and Mullins and Bower, JJ.

          BOWER, JUDGE.

         Romoke Olutunde appeals the district court decision affirming the Iowa Department of Human Services (DHS) ruling finding she committed dependent adult abuse. We find DHS properly interpreted the term "caretaker" and concluded Olutunde was a caretaker of the patient in question during the relevant period of time. We also find there is substantial evidence in the record to show staff trained by Olutunde were not consistent in providing medication to the patient in a timely manner, or at the very least, were not consistent in providing documentation to show whether or not the patient was receiving her medication as prescribed. We affirm the district court's decision, affirming the decision of DHS finding Olutunde committed dependent adult abuse.

         I. Background Facts & Proceedings

         At the time of the incidents in this case in March 2014, J.N. was a fifty-five year old person unable to care for herself due to physical and mental health problems. In particular, J.N. needed assistance in managing her medications. J.N. did not have the ability to know which medications to take or when to take them. The parties agree J.N. was a dependent adult within the meaning of Iowa Code section 235B.2(4) (2014).

         In December 2013, J.N. began living at All Ages Care Services, LLC (All Ages). Olutunde, a certified nursing assistant, was the owner and clinical director of All Ages, and she provided training and supervision of employees working there. Olutunde was not present at All Ages every day. All Ages had an administrator who provided day-to-day supervision of employees.[1] At times, when no one else was available, Olutunde would work a shift for an absent employee and provide direct care for the patients. Olutunde testified she never administered medication to J.N.

         On March 6, 2014, J.N. began attending Robert E. Miller Iowa Developmental Services (REM) from 8:45 a.m. to 2:15 p.m. each day, then returning to All Ages. When J.N. first began attending REM, the day program did not have authorization to administer J.N.'s medication to her. An employee of All Ages was supposed to go to REM every afternoon to give J.N. her medication. REM received permission on March 25, 2014, to give J.N. her afternoon medication. J.N.'s DHS case manager, Angela Albers, moved J.N. from All Ages to a different residential facility on May 1, 2014.

         On March 28, 2014, DHS received an allegation J.N. had been subjected to dependent adult abuse. The allegation claimed J.N. had been denied critical care due to failure to ensure she was receiving her medications as prescribed. Three areas of complaint were raised: (1) whether someone from All Ages went to REM to give J.N. her medication every afternoon from March 6 to 25; (2) during the same time period, whether J.N.'s medication was sometimes placed in her backpack to be transported to REM although J.N. was not to have access to the medication; and (3) after March 25, whether bubble packs containing J.N.'s medication showed she had not been receiving all of her medication while at All Ages.

         DHS issued a founded report against Olutunde, finding she was "responsible for making sure that the staff has the necessary training to care for [J.N.] and in dealing with crisis situations." The report stated:

There is evidence that the dependent adult does not have adequate medical care. [A DHS worker] reviewed the medication log for March 2014 for [J.N.] and there are a lot of questions, regarding inconsistencies that no one seems to be able to answer to. REM staff have also reported that medication in [J.N.]'s bubble packs was still there for several days, indicating she was not getting it. This was apparent after viewing the log. [Olutunde] did not provide her staff with All Ages the appropriate training to know and understand medication passing in order to ensure that [J.N.] was getting the adequate medical care she needed daily. [Olutunde] admits to being the one responsible for all consumers' care, however, she is unable to answer questions regarding the agency or consumers, as [Soji] is the primary one to run the agency.

         Olutunde filed an administrative appeal of the founded report with the Iowa Department of Inspections and Appeals (DIA). A hearing was held in which evidence both supporting and contrary to the findings in the founded report was presented.

         The administrative law judge (ALJ) reversed the founded report against Olutunde. The ALJ found Olutunde was not a caretaker within the meaning of Iowa Code section 235.2(5)(a)(1)(d) and Mosher v. Department of Inspections & Appeals, 671 N.W.2d 501, 511-12 (Iowa 2003). The ALJ determined DHS did not show Olutunde was present during acts of dependent adult abuse or personally deny J.N. adequate medical care. The ALJ also found J.N. was not given her afternoon medication on March 6, 2014, but concluded, "I cannot base 'Founded' determinations of dependent adult abuse against Olutunde based on evidence that on one date, J.N. was not given her medications as prescribed."[2] The ALJ determined Olutunde's name should be removed from the adult abuse registry.

         DHS appealed the ALJ's decision to the DHS director. In a final decision, the director adopted the ALJ's factual findings but came to different legal conclusions. He affirmed the founded report of dependent adult abuse. The director disagreed with the ALJ's interpretation of Mosher, finding Olutunde was J.N.'s caretaker because she was responsible for the care J.N. received in the facility and the training of J.N.'s caregivers. The director also found there were ongoing problems with J.N.'s medications, noting REM often needed to remind staff from All Ages to come over to give J.N. her afternoon medication, J.N. would bring her medications in her backpack, and the bubble packs showed J.N. was not ...

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