|Brookdale San Ramon is one of 89 assisted living centers in California operated by Brookdale Senior Living, Inc., which is based in Brentwood, Tennessee.(Google Street View)|
But Brookdale San Ramon has not only failed to provide the services listed in the agreement — as well as the enhanced personal services plan — it also has created “humiliating, frustrating and hazardous situations on a daily basis” for Stacia Stiner, according to a lawsuit filed in U.S. District Court for the Northern District of California.
The lawsuit says that Brookdale San Ramon has not provided Stacia Stiner with a room that has any physical access features, including insufficient space in the bathroom, which makes it impossible for her to enter in her wheelchair; lack of a roll-in shower and insufficient grab bars; and storage space in her closet that is out of reach for her. Stiner has had to wait up to 45 minutes to order breakfast, wait up to an hour for help getting dressed in the morning and wait up to an hour for staff to respond if she needs to use the toilet, according to the lawsuit.
Stiner, 48, is one of eight disabled and elderly residents who are suing Brookdale Senior Living in federal court, accusing the nation’s largest provider of assisted living centers of financial abuse and multiple violations of the Americans with Disabilities Act.
The lawsuit will seek class-action status for the estimated 5,000 residents in Brookdale’s 89 assisted living facilities in California, as well as unspecified damages. No date has been set when the plaintiffs’ attorneys will seek the class-action status.
“It is our view that Brookdale has failed to accommodate the disabilities of the named plaintiffs, has discriminated against them on the basis of their disability and has defrauded them of hard-earned money by not providing them the individualized services they were promised,” said attorney Gay Crosthwait Grunfeld of Rosen Bien Galvan & Grunfeld, of San Francisco, in an interview. Her firm is one of three law firms representing the plaintiffs.
In addition to violating the ADA and accompanying regulations, Brookdale also has not adhered to requirements of the state’s Unruh Civil Rights Act, the lawsuit maintains. The Unruh Civil Rights Act bans discrimination based on sex, race, color, religion, ancestry, national origin, age, disability, medical condition, genetic information, marital status or sexual orientation.
The lawsuit contends that Brookdale has violated the ADA by failing to make its facilities usable by people with disabilities.
The lawsuit also alleges that Brookdale has violated the Consumer Legal Remedies Act, committed elder financial abuse and engages in unlawful and fraudulent practices.
Brookdale, with headquarters in Brentwood, Tennessee, owns and operates senior living and retirement communities across the United States and is a for-profit company. Brookdale has a total of 961 retirement communities serving 75,000 people, according to its website.
Heather Hunter, a spokeswoman for Brookdale’s corporate office in Tennessee, said: “The only remark we have is that we strongly disagree with the allegations and are defending ourselves.”
The lawsuit is not the first time that Brookdale has been in the courts. In December, a suit filed in Ventura County Superior Court alleged residents of Brookdale’s 10 California nursing homes are being illegally evicted.
In a separate case, Brookdale has petitioned the U.S. Supreme Court to review a 2012 case involving allegations of fraudulent Medicare billings totaling about $35 million. That case was brought by a former Brookdale employee in its Tennessee office.
And in a case involving a bizarre death, the granddaughter of a 90-year-old senior resident sued Brookdale over an alligator attack. The body of Bonnie Walker, a resident of Brookdale Charleston in South Carolina, was found in July 2016 in a pond near the senior living community. The coroner ruled the death an accident and said the cause was “multiple sharp and blunt-force injuries” consistent with those made by an alligator.
The federal court lawsuit, amended on Feb. 15, was first filed on July 13, 2017. It was prompted by “scores of family and resident council meetings and hundreds of communications to Brookdale management,” which “have failed to rectify these problems, leaving plaintiffs and the class no choice but to seek redress.”
On Jan. 25, U.S. District Judge Haywood S. Gilliam Jr. denied Brookdale’s motion to dismiss the case, setting the stage for a potential jury trial. No date has been set for a trial.
The lawsuit details the plaintiffs’ issues with Brookdale facilities across the state.
According to the lawsuit, on October 2016, Stiner’s mother, Rita Stiner, received a letter from Brookdale’s executive director, telling her that the cost for basic service, medication management, dressing and grooming assistance, shower help and toilet assistance would increase from $4,736 to $5,638 a month, a 19 percent increase.
Rita Stiner spoke with Shawn Cull, acting executive director in San Ramon, and said he told her that Brookdale would not charge the full amount of the increases. But Brookdale subsequently sent Rita Stiner notices of late payment and a “30-day final demand to pay,” the lawsuit stated.
A call seeking comment from Cull was not returned.
Edward Boris was a resident at Brookdale Fountaingrove’s assisted living facility from Sept. 10, 2015, to July 21, 2016. He required regular monitoring of his catheter.
The lawsuit says that in May 2016, his catheter overflowed, disconnected and spilled urine all over his room. And on July 20, 2016, Boris’s catheter developed a blockage, “but Brookdale’s staff failed to identify or address the problem for about 24 hours.”
The lawsuit said the next day, Boris was reported in extreme pain and suffered a urinary tract infection and kidney failure and had to stay in intensive care for several days. After he left the hospital, his condition deteriorated to the point where he needed skilled nursing care.
Ralph Schmidt, 54, is blind and suffers from short-term memory loss, the result of a traumatic brain injury. He was a resident at Brookdale Tracy from September 2011 to Oct. 30, 2017.
“Brookdale responded to Mr. Schmidt’s frustration and need for appropriate accommodations in shockingly inappropriate ways,” the lawsuit says. “Professing to be concerned that Mr. Schmidt might harm someone with his tapping cane, Brookdale staff once took it away from him for several weeks.”
Schmidt’s toilet overflowed “on several occasions,” and “Brookdale responded by locking Mr. Schmidt out of the bathroom in his apartment altogether. Rather than fix the problems with the toilet, Brookdale gave Mr. Schmidt, via his conservator, Heather Fisher, the option of a portable toilet in Mr. Schmidt’s room or paying for a full-time personal caretaker at the additional cost of $250 per day,” according to the lawsuit.
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Seniors, disabled residents sue nation’s largest assisted-living provider