Nursing Homes Face Baby-Boomer Lawsuits

SANTA ANA, Calif. (CN) – Facing a slew of lawsuits alleging elder abuse, the owner of 35 nursing homes in the West has filed for bankruptcy protection.
     California-based North American Health Care owns and operates 35 nursing homes in California and other Western states.
     North American filed for bankruptcy protection this month in California’s Central District Bankruptcy Court. At least 15 lawsuits alleging elder abuse or negligence have been filed against the chain since 2013, according to the Courthouse News database.
     The New York Times reported this week that plaintiffs’ attorneys have criticized the bankruptcy filing as a way to duck potential liability. The nursing chain, not surprisingly, attributes it to over-aggressive attorneys.
     The company claims on its website that Medicare officials have rated all of its homes with five stars, and that U.S. News and World Report named all 35 among the “Best Nursing Homes” in the United States in 2013.
     Nursing homes across the nation are criticized and sued repeatedly for allegations of less than acceptable care, according to the National Center on Elder Abuse.
     The Center reported that 3.2 million Americans lived in nursing homes in 2008, and cited a 2000 study of 2,000 nursing home residents, 44 percent of whom said they had been abused and 95 percent of whom said that they had been neglected or had seen others neglected.
     The lawsuits are partly due to increases in retirement-age populations in the United States and partly due to decreased funding from state and federal sources that cause nursing homes to reduce staffing levels, the Center reported.
     With most of the Baby Boomer generation at or near retirement age, law firms are becoming more aggressive in targeting nursing homes with lawsuits involving patient care, according to The Wall Street Journal.
     Such lawsuits commonly accuse nursing home operators of reducing levels of care to boost profits. A 2013 lawsuit in Sacramento Superior Court accuses North American Health Care of doing precisely that.
     Nursing home operators told The Wall Street Journal that such lawsuits serve to enrich law firms, and that many of them are frivolous.

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