The Garcia Law Firm Acquires Preliminary Class Status and Settlement
On November 2, 2007, Orange County Superior Court Just Thierry Colaw has granted preliminary approval of a class action settlement on behalf of thousands of California residents who resided in Sunwest Management facilities in the State of California from January 15, 2003 through January 15, 2007. The action was filed by Co-Lead counsel Stephen Garcia and David Medby of The Garcia Law Firm.
The complaint alleged that Sunwest Management, Inc., its directors, and the approximately 16 residential elder care facilities in the state of California that it owns, operates or manages, failed to comply with applicable laws and regulations governing the operation of residential care facilities for the elderly, resulting in the defendants receiving multiple citations of deficiencies from the California Department of Social Services.
The lawsuit alleged that Sunwest and its facilities deliberately understaff its “communities” by forcing each facility to operate under a budget, approved and directed by Sunwest Management and the directors of the individual facilities, that would increase business profits by charging for services that were not provided, such as adequately staffing the residential care facility as it advertises that it does.
“Basically, the lawsuit contended that the evidence clearly established that Sunwest’s corporate strategy, policy, and practice was to maximize profit at the expense of the elderly and vulnerable people it claims to serve,” says Medby. “We asserted that the claims this company made on its web site and in its promotional materials were a far cry from the reality where facilities are understaffed and have a long history of citations for deficiencies. It was critical to us that the Sunwest facilities provide care consistent not only with their representations but more importantly, that they provide the care California’s elders require and deserve.”
Medby noted, “The bottom line is by the outcome of this lawsuit these facilities will now have an independent monitor in place who will police the facilities future conduct and ensure fair, proper and necessary care is provided to all Sunwest residents in the State of California. We are immensely proud of that fact. Unfortunately, our state’s governmental licensing authority overseeing long term care facilities either does not have the time, or the will, to do their jobs to protect residents of long term care facilities. So these independent lawsuits brought by California’s citizens are becoming increasingly important to protect our elders. Simply, the State government is not going to enforce the rule of law and so it is left to the rest of us to protect our elders.”
It was alleged that this was not Sunwest Management’s first problem in California:
•¨ The California Department of Social Services is currently suing to prevent the for-profit assisted living operator’s top seven executives – including Jon Harder, president; Darryl Fisher, chief operating officer; and Deana Altman Nelson, senior vice president — from operating elder care communities in the state of California.
•¨ Troy K. Nelms, 71, suffering from Alzheimer’s was allowed to open a malfunctioning locked door at Paragon Gardens on June 5, 2006, without anyone realizing he was gone until early morning. Nelms remains missing and is presumed dead by sheriffs.
•¨ In August 2005, the California Department of Justice seized records and shut down Sunwest Management’s corporate offices due to the company’s noncompliance in providing records regarding allegations of neglect at one of its California facilities. The investigation is ongoing.
•¨ In August 2006, at Sunwest’s Yreka, Calif., facility, three families of elderly residents have sued for resident deaths they attribute to understaffing and negligence. Trial is set for spring 2007.
•¨ The opening of the Fortuna, Calif., facility was delayed for several months due to inadequate staffing and management turnover, according to media reports.
•¨ The Portland Business Journal reported (Robin J. Moody), that a review of the California Sunwest facilities in 2004 showed that four of its facilities were under “correction plans” with the state for repeated citations.
Final Approval for the class settlement is set before Judge Colaw at 1:30 p.m. on December 21, 2007 in Department C-104.
Laurel Springs Assisted Living Memory Care
Pacific Pointe Retirement Village
Orchard Park Assisted Living & Memory Care
Addie Meedom House Assisted Living & Memory Care
Sequoia Springs Assisted Living
Healdsburg Retirement, Assisted Living & Memory Care
Courtyard at Merced Assisted Living and Memory Care
Paragon Gardens Assisted Living & Memory Care
Sundial Assisted Living & Memory Care
Lassen House Assisted Living & Memory Care
The Palms Assisted Living & Memory Care
Greenhaven Estates Assisted Living & Memory Care
Eagle Lake Village Assisted Living & Memory Care
Eagle Mountain View Assisted Living
Summerfield House Assisted Living & Memory Care
Meadowlark Assisted Living & Memory Care