Two New Jersey long-term care facilities are among the defendants facing a proposed class action alleging repeated failures to implement adequate infection prevention and control measures are linked to a number of COVID-19-related deaths.
The 23-page lawsuit, filed in Sussex County, New Jersey Superior Court by the estate of a deceased resident, further alleges Andover Subacute Rehabilitation Center I and II; owner and building lessor Altitude Investments, LTD; overseer/manager Alliance Healthcare; Healthcare Services Group; and the facilities’ two individual owners for years misled consumers by touting the centers as “high-quality, regulatory-compliant” facilities despite an extensive history of violations and poor assessment ratings.
According to the case, the defendants’ inaction is directly to blame for a COVID-19 outbreak at both facilities in mid-to-late March 2020 that to date has claimedat least 94 lives.
After a number of inspections performed in the years prior to the COVID-19 pandemic, the Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services (CMS) uncovered “a litany of systemic issues” at the Andover I and Andover II facilities, the lawsuit relays. According to the case, Andover I has been cited for 24 regulatory violations since 2015 and Andover II has been docked for 48 violations in the same time frame.
Moreover, CMS has graded the “scope and severity” of the issues plaguing the Andover II facility as level “K,” the second-worst rating on a scale of A through L, the complaint says, explaining that the bottom-tier marks are indicative of a “pattern” of deficiencies that pose “immediate jeopardy to resident health or safety.”
Among the issues consistently cited by CMS during its inspections of the Andover facilities were their continuous failure to meet the requisite safety and sanitary thresholds necessary to protect against the spread of infection and communicable disease among residents and patients, the case says.
“In fact,” the suit reads, “CMS specifically directed the Facilities to implement adequate infection prevention and control programs on numerous occasions: Andover I was directed to do so at least once in 2015; and Andover II was directed to do so at least five times between 2015 and 2020.”
Notwithstanding directives from CMS, the defendants failed to implement infection prevention and control measures and continued to operate the Andover facilities without appropriate programs in place, the plaintiff alleges, charging the parties “attempted to mislead consumers” by maintain that the centers were “high-quality, regulatory-compliant” facilities capable of properly caring for residents.
The plaintiff, the nephew of a resident who died of COVID-19 complications on April 1 andadministrator ad prosequendumof the decedent’s estate, asserts proposed class members chose the Andover facilities based on the defendants’ representations. Absent the defendants’ framing of the facilities as high-quality and regulatory-compliant, proposed class members may have turned elsewhere for their nursing home and/or rehabilitation needs, the lawsuit says.
“Through their misrepresentations Defendants were able to charge a premium for their nursing home/rehabilitation services over what they would have been able to charge had they not misled [the plaintiff], the Decedent, and the Class,” the suit reads.
The lawsuit relays that on April 11, amid the coronavirus crisis, Andover police received a request to deliver 25body bagsto the defendants’ facilities. A day later, the case says, Andover police reported to the facilities and discovered “five (5) dead bodies being stored in a small holding room in Andover II.” On April 13, police returned to Andover II after receiving an anonymous tip that a body was being stored in a shed, and discovered 12 more bodies being held in a small room.
Per the suit, none of the17 resident deathswere reported to authorities, family members, authorized representatives and/or insurance companies prior to their discovery by police. The case adds that it was widely reported at the time that many family members were unable to contact Andover I or II staff, often going “weeks without receiving any update as to the status of their loved ones.”
The lawsuit looks to cover all individuals who were residents and/or patients of Andover Subacute Rehabilitation I or Andover Subacute Rehabilitation II during the applicable statute of limitations period.
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