A potential class action lawsuit recently filed in Florida takes aim at Brookdale Senior Living’s (NYSE: BKD) staffing practices and pushes for more transparency from the company, the nation’s largest senior housing provider.
Gloria Runton first moved into a Brookdale facility in Florida in May 2015, the legal complaint states. Since that time, her care needs have increased and her monthly charges have reflected this, going from $1,077.51 to $2,830; however, she claims staff have not spent additional time with her corresponding to these increases. Since 2015, Florida regulators have brought at least nine formal administrative actions related to staffing deficiencies against Brookdale, according to the complaint.
Brookdale does not comment on pending litigation, the company’s Senior Public Relations Specialist Heather Hunter told Senior Housing News.
Runton alleges that understaffing is created because Brookdale does not base its staffing levels on its Resident Assessment System, which is used to determine care needs.
“On information and belief, Brookdale directs Executive Directors at its facilities to staff based on a strict budget determined by corporate headquarters that is designed to meet profit objectives, and Executive Directors are not permitted to increase their labor budgets without approval from corporate headquarters,” the legal document states.
Runton believes this flies in the face of promises made in marketing materials, which state that Brookdale’s care starts “with a detailed assessment” and that the provider will be able to furnish “a personalized approach [ensuring] that you and your family get exactly what you need.”
Runton is seeking class action status for the suit, asking to include “all similarly situated persons” who resided at a Brookdale assisted living facility in Florida going back four years from the present. The potential number of class members could exceed 5,000, according to the complaint. Brentwood, Tennessee-based Brookdale operates about 1,100 total communities and about 120 in Florida.
In addition to damages, the suit is seeking to require Brookdale to disclose to prospective customers that it does not use its Resident Assessment System to determine staffing.
The complaint was filed by and through Runton’s guardianship service, Adult Advocacy & Representation. When Runton returned to the Brookdale community in June 2016 after a stint in rehabilitation, her guardian “specifically refused” to sign the arbitration agreement portion of the residency contract, the complaint notes.
Plaintiff is represented by Christa Collins of Harmon, Woods, Parker & Abrunzo, M.A., and J. Andrew Meyer of J. Andrew Meyer, P.A.* The practice of both attorneys is “devoted exclusively to class actions,” Collins told SHN.
*Editor’s Note: This article has been corrected from a previous version, which stated that J. Andrew Meyer is with the firm of Morgan & Morgan.
Written by Tim Mullaney