Brookdale Senior Living (NYSE: BKD) is the target of what might be the first-ever class action lawsuit against an assisted living provider brought under the Americans with Disabilities Act of 1990 (ADA).
The lawsuit, filed July 13 in U.S. District Court in California, accuses the nation’s largest senior housing provider of violating the ADA, as well as committing financial abuse. The lawsuit was brought by four seniors currently living in Brookdale communities in California.
Specifically, Brookdale communities in California are reportedly refusing to offer residents who have mobility disabilities equal and full access to transportation services. Additionally, Brookdale is allegedly failing to provide its disabled residents with an emergency evacuation plan that is designed to guarantee their “prompt and effective evacuation of in the event of an emergency.”
Both of these failings violate the ADA, according to the lawsuit.
Brookdale, for its part, is “defending [itself] vigorously” against the allegations.
“We were notified that California attorneys representing four residents filed a lawsuit trying to create a class action,” Brookdale Senior Public Relations Specialist Heather Hunter told Senior Housing News. “We believe this lawsuit is without merit.”
It is critical that assisted living providers comply with the ADA, as most residents in assisted living communities have some form of disability, Gay Grunfeld, a partner with Rosen Bien Galvan & Grunfeld LLP in San Francisco who’s representing the defendants in the lawsuit, explained to SHN.
When asked why more lawsuits against assisted living providers haven’t been brought under the ADA, Grunfeld said she didn’t know.
The lawsuit also paints Brookdale as a provider that habitually staffs its California communities improperly.
Brookdale “systemically understaffs its facilities, cuts caregiver hours, and fails to train workers, all to boost its profitability, while the residents in Brookdale’s care are forced to endure increasingly expensive monthly charges and worsening care,” the lawsuit says.
All of this has reportedly led to a myriad of issues.
“The results of Brookdale’s callous and profit-driven approach are devastating: as multiple reports by state regulators confirm, residents are left without assistance for hours after falling, they are given the wrong medications, they are denied clean clothing, showers, and nutritious food, and they are left in their own waste for long periods of time,” the lawsuit says.
Some allegations raised in the lawsuit against Brookdale are reminiscent of stories told in a PBS Frontline documentary that originally aired in 2013.
The four-part documentary—Life and Death in Assisted Living—focused solely on communities operated in California by Emeritus Corp., which, at the time, was the largest assisted living provider in the country. Emeritus merged with Brookdale in 2014.
The documentary cited complaints against Emeritus’ staffing shortages, as well as the company’s apparent practice of admitting residents who were “too sick” to live in its communities.
Written by Mary Kate Nelson