Senior living facility operator settles lawsuit with state
A $3.25 million settlement was announced Friday against the nation's largest senior living operator, resolving allegations that its 10 skilled nursing facilities in California didn't properly prepare their residents for transfers and discharges and misrepresented their quality of care to the general public.
Tennessee-based Brookdale Senior Living Inc., which operated facilities in San Diego and Carlsbad, didn't give residents at least 30 days advance notice of a transfer or discharge as required, and gave false information to the Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services (CMS), which was used to provide the company's facilities with "undeserved" awards, according to the lawsuit filed by a coalition of district and city attorneys across the state.
Officials alleged the late notice for transfers "endangered the health of its residents and also left families scrambling to find other places to care for their loved ones."
Additionally, the false information which led to higher award ratings was submitted "to attract prospective residents and their families." The alleged misrepresentations included over-reporting the amount of hours in which nurses provided care, which garnered Brookdale facilities four- and five-star ratings from the CMS.
The two San Diego County facilities have since been sold, according to the San Diego County District Attorney's Office.
"Skilled nursing facilities should always provide their residents with the highest standard of care. Instead, Brookdale put seniors and people with disabilities at risk, and misled prospective residents and their families about the quality of its California facilities," California Attorney General Rob Bonta said.
As part of the settlement, Brookdale must appoint a monitor to oversee compliance at its Kern County facility and pay $2.4 million in civil penalties, plus other costs.
"This case demonstrates that we will hold senior living facilities accountable to follow the rules regarding proper notification before release or transfer of an elderly person in their care," San Diego County District Attorney Summer Stephan said. "... This lawsuit exposed the kind of misrepresentation that won't be tolerated when it comes to protecting some of the most vulnerable in our community. Brookdale's actions put seniors and people with disabilities at risk."
A statement was not immediately available from Brookdale Senior Living, but on March 15, 2021, following the lawsuit's filing, the company denied any wrongdoing:
"We categorically deny that Brookdale engaged in intentional or fraudulent conduct. We are disappointed in the allegations against the skilled nursing industry," a Brookdale spokesperson said.
"Publicizing unproven allegations is reckless and undermines the public's confidence in a service necessary to the care of elderly individuals, especially during the COVID-19 pandemic," she said. "Brookdale is dedicated to providing quality care to our residents and patients, and we take our mission of enriching the lives of those we serve seriously."