Nursing Home Class Actions for Systemic Understaffing
After gaining decades’ worth of elder care law experience, a common theme we observed regularly leading to significant injuries and death in assisted living facilities and nursing homes is chronic understaffing. Understaffing leads to a lack of supervision, abuse and neglect.
The First of Its Kind
In April of 2016, Gugenheim Law filed the first ever class action lawsuit in North Carolina arising from chronic understaffing of Saber Healthcare assisted living facilities. The lawsuit alleges that Saber failed to “provide assisted living services that [met] the minimum needs of the residents.” A copy of the complaint is available here.
As part of the lawsuit, we filed a motion for a Preliminary Injunction to prevent Saber from continuing to staff their facilities below the North Carolina minimum staffing standards. We alleged that the under-staffing resulted in deplorable conditions for the residents, including residents not being bathed for weeks to months, being left to sit in their own waste for hours to days, and not being provided with medications.
Plaintiffs’ motion for a Preliminary Injunction was heard by the Honorable Donald Stephens, Wake County’s Senior Resident Superior Court Judge, over two days, on May 16, 2016 and May 19, 2016. Judge Stephens considered the fact that the Saber facilities were cited by the North Carolina Division of Health Services Regulation (NC DHSR) 17 times from November 5, 2014 through May 9, 2016 for numerous violations including the failure to meet minimum staffing thresholds, medication administration violations, and a failure to provide appropriate personal care to the residents. Judge Stephens also considered the NC DHSR findings that a resident was left in her own waste for extended periods of time resulting in her skin rubbing off, that residents were locked in or out of their rooms resulting in them soiling themselves due to the inability to access their bathrooms, and that the residents were not treated with respect, consideration and dignity.
At the conclusion of the second day, Judge Stephens ruled that the evidence showed that the Saber facilities failed to staff their adult care homes in compliance with the minimum North Carolina staffing rules, failed to provide care and services to residents of the Saber facilities which are adequate, appropriate and in compliance with federal and State laws, and that the residents were not treated with respect, consideration and dignity. Judge Stephens ruled that the injunction was necessary to prevent an imminent threat of irreparable harm to the residents.
Judge Stephens enjoined the Saber facilities from staffing any shift of any day at levels below the minimum North Carolina staffing ratios. The order further requires an independent monitor to make unannounced visits to the three Saber facilities to verify that the Saber facilities are staffing at minimum North Carolina staffing levels. A copy of the preliminary injunction order is available here. Within days of Judge Stephens’ ruling, Saber removed the case to federal court, and asserted that North Carolina state courts no longer had jurisdiction with regard to Judge Stephens’ order granting the Preliminary Injunction. The federal court, though, remanded the case back to the North Carolina Superior Court where it is currently pending.
Have You or a Loved One Experienced Understaffing at an Assisted Living Facility?
Unfortunately, the business model of understaffing to maximize profits at the expense of the elderly is not unique to Saber. It is a pervasive and industry-wide problem. We are currently investigating claims to bring additional class actions arising from this conduct. Our goal is to change the way the industry does business and to force nursing homes and assisted living facilities to treat our loved ones with the respect and dignity they deserve. Please let us know if you or a loved one is currently in as assisted living home that you believe is understaffed.
For more information about the Saber Healthcare Group lawsuit or to tell us about understaffing at other facilities, please contact Steve Gugenheim or Drew Hathaway at Gugenheim Law Offices, P.C. at 919-836-5551. You may also contact us online at firstname.lastname@example.org.