We have previously covered a number of cases of abuse and neglect at nursing homes that result in civil lawsuits by individuals and/or their families, by the government for penalties and violations of laws, rules and regulations, including the False Claims Act (or state equivalents), and even criminal charges for the grossest of neglect and harshest of abuse by nursing home staffers and aides. Yet we have not had occasion to cover a particularly large type of civil action known as a class action lawsuit. For the uninitiated, a class action lawsuit is one brought by a larger number of people, and typically named for the lead plaintiff in the case. Class action lawsuits are commonly seen in tort cases, namely products liability cases for example where a car part has caused injury, or a toy has caused injury.
The Nursing Home Lawsuit
A class action lawsuit was brought in Long Beach, California against the owner of 57 nursing home facilities across the state. This lawsuit has accused the owner of violating nursing home residents’ rights, of committing fraud, and engaging in unfair business practices under state law. The owner’s name is Schlomo Rechnitz, and he owns Brius Management and Brius LLC, which is the holding entity of the nursing facilities that span the state, including in Los Angeles, Pasadena, and elsewhere. The lawsuit uses as its basis the findings from a multiyear investigation that concluded the nursing facilities routinely lacked adequate staff and was also underfunded by its owner.
This is an unfortunately common thing to see across nursing homes. Many facility owners seek to limit the number of staff and limit as much of the expenses as possible in order to keep overhead low. By spending less on staffing and other items, naturally their profits go up. Unfortunately the potential for fraud can creep in, however, where a nursing home continues to bill insurance companies, including public programs like Medicare and Medicaid, for serves rendered that are either subpart of nonexistent. And most importantly, patients not tended to can be injured, dehydrated, malnourished, experience infections, and wander and fall, among other things. Such incidents are even worse among those with mental ailments like dementia. The lawsuit in this case accuses the owner of making misrepresentations as to the level of care provided and by failing to inform patients or potential patients about violations of nursing regulations.
The nursing home’s owner has refuted the allegations and cites a lack of record of actual harm or abuse against the nursing homes’ residents. He furthermore cites a record of more than adequate staffing at the various facilities and how those levels easily meet state standards. A Press Telegram article quotes the executive director of the California Advocates for Nursing Home Reform as stating that the state requirement of at least 3.2 nursing hours per patient per day is relatively low and that all facilities should have little problem meeting that goal. Thus for homes to be accused of understaffing, they must be truly understaffed based on that measure.
Naturally, this case has merely been filed and it remains to be seen how the facts sort themselves out. Nothing has been proven and there remain only allegations. But the nature of the allegations rings like an echo for so many others we have seen across the country of understaffing and false or dishonest advertising by nursing homes. In the rush for profit the care for the patients, which should be paramount, can fall by the wayside. This is not to say this is the case in the California class action, but unfortunately is so at various facilities around the nation.
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