LOS ANGELES (CN) - California's largest provider of nursing homes "chronically understaffed" its facilities, according to a class action that demands an investigation into "actual or suspected abuse or neglect" at dozens of the institutions.
Lead plaintiff Raymond Foreman on Wednesday sued Shlomo Rechnitz, 43, his management companies and the nursing homes, in Superior Court.
Rechnitz, a businessman and philanthropist, owns Brius Healthcare Services, the largest provider of nursing homes in California.
Rechnitz and his brother Steve Rechnitz in 2012 received the UCLA ICON Award for Visionary Leadership in Business and Philanthropy.
Larry King interviewed Rechnitz the same year.
"I'm honored to be joined by one of the world's greatest young philanthropists and businessmen," King said in an introduction to a televised special.
In his lawsuit, Foreman seeks an order that forces Rechnitz and Brius to report "incidents of actual or suspected abuse or neglect" at the homes in the past three years. Foreman also wants a judge to order Rechnitz and Brius to survey residents every quarter to make sure they are not being mistreated.
According to the complaint, Rechnitz and Brius have admitted residents to 57 nursing homes, while failing to disclose that the homes are understaffed.
Rechnitz and his companies Brius Management and Brius LLC "have a history of failing to comply with laws and regulations" of the federal Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services, and the California Department of Health Care Services, according to the 90-page lawsuit.
The Department of Health Care Services in 2013 withheld Medi-Cal payments after several of Rechnitz's nursing homes failed to provide "audit materials" to authorities, according to the complaint.
And the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services has hit Rechnitz with multiple enforcement actions for violating industry regulations, the lawsuit states.
The denial of Medi-Cal payments and enforcement actions threaten standards of care at all 57 of Rechnitz's nursing homes, the complaint says, citing declarations of state authorities.
"Before, during, and after the admissions processes," elderly residents were led to believe that the homes are properly staffed and maintained, Foreman claims. But he says that the nursing homes never disclosed that they "did not devote sufficient financial resources to protect the health and safety of residents and ensure resident rights were not violated, and instead diverted those resources to create ill-begotten profits for defendants."
Foreman says the California's Health and Safety Code requires that nursing homes provide a minimum of three staff members for every two residents. The department may require nursing homes to provide more workers, depending on residents' needs.
Foreman claims that Rechnitz's nursing homes were required to do more than the minimum and failed to adequately staff the homes.
"Plaintiff and class members did rely on the fact that defendants' facilities were licensed, in regulatory compliance, and adequately funded in being placed as residents at the defendants' facilities. Plaintiff and class members would not have agreed to become residents at defendants' facilities if the true facts had been known," the lawsuit states.
In 2012, the FBI, the IRS, the California Department of Justice and the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services investigated one of the named nursing homes, South Pasadena Rehabilitation Center, after more than 65 complaints from residents, the South Pasadena Police Department said at the time.
South Pasadena police said they had responded to several incidents of drug and alcohol-related offenses. Officers found out that the hospital was admitting registered sex offenders in violation of state law; the facility later moved those patients to other hospitals, police said.
Police said they had conducted several investigations of burglary, grand theft, and physical and sexual assault at the hospital.
Foreman seeks class certification and damages for consumer law violations, unlawful business practices, fraud and violation of residents' rights.
He is represented by Stephen Garcia, with Garcia, Artigliere & Medby, of Long Beach.
After Courthouse News posted this story on Thursday, Brius Healthcare's public relations representative issued this statement via email: "This lawsuit is filled with baseless and untrue allegations. It is notable that it makes no allegations of harm to or abuse of any of our patients. It is also telling, we believe, that its filing came after we refused to enter into a lucrative consulting contract with the plaintiff's attorney. ...
"The allegations in the lawsuit focus on staffing levels at our facilities. The fact is staffing levels at all of our facilities meet and even exceed the staffing levels required by the State of California. Ironically, this fact substantiated by the staffing levels alleged in the plaintiff's own complaint.
Brius facilities are operated at the highest standards and, in fact, have been appointed as one of the only state-certified temporary managers to take control of troubled nursing facilities.
"This lawsuit is a case in point of how anyone can say anything in a lawsuit regardless of whether it's true. We look forward to proving the allegations in this lawsuit to be utterly false."
Here are the defendants: Shlomo Rechnitz; Brius Management Co. Inc.; Brius LLC; Sol Healthcare LLC; B-Spring Valley LLC; CNRC LLC; Point Loma Rehabilitation Center LLC; Centinela Skilled Nursing & Wellness Centre - West LLC; Centinela Skilled Nursing & Wellness Centre - East LLC; Highland Park Skilled Nursing & Wellness Centre LLC; Laibco LLC; South Pasadena Rehabilitation Center LLC; Lighthouse Healthcare Center LLC; Vernon Healthcare LLC; Norwalk Skilled Nursing & Wellness Centre LLC; Verdugo Valley Skilled Nursing & Wellness Centre LLC; Maywood Skilled Nursing & Wellness Centre LLC; Wish-I-Ah Healthcare & Wellness Centre LLC; Fresno Skilled Nursing & Wellness Centre LLC; Oakhurst Healthcare & Wellness Centre LLC; Eureka Rehabilitation & Wellness Center LLC; Granada Rehabilitation & Wellness Center LP; Pacific Rehabilitation & Wellness Center LP; Seaview Rehabilitation & Wellness Center LP; Fortuna Rehabilitation & Wellness Center LP; Granite Hills Healthcare & Wellness Centre LLC; Clairemont Healthcare & Wellness Centre LLC; Solnus One LLC; Solnus Two LLC; Solnus Three LLC; Solnus Four LLC; Solnus Five LLC; Solnus Five LLC; Solnus Six LLC; Solnus Seven LLC; Solnus Eight LLC; Lawndale Healthcare & Wellness Centre LLC; The Healthcare Center of Downey LLC; San Marino Gardens Wellness Center LP; Notellage Corporation; Four Seasons Healthcare & Wellness Center LP; Alhambra Healthcare & Wellness Centre LP; Mesa Verde Convalescent Hospital Inc.; Fullerton Healthcare & Wellness Centre LP; Hawthorne Healthcare & Wellness Centre LLC; York Healthcare & Wellness Centre LP; Novato Healthcare Center LLC; Oxnard Manor LP; Pomona Healthcare & Wellness Center LLC; Pine Grove Healthcare & Wellness Centre LP; San Gabriel Healthcare & Wellness Centre LP; and San Rafael Healthcare Wellness Centre LP.
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