Aegis Living sued over staffing concerns; plaintiff's firm also involved in Brookdale ADA lawsuit

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Aegis Living sued over staffing concerns; plaintiff's firm also involved in Brookdale ADA lawsuit
Aegis Living sued over staffing concerns; plaintiff's firm also involved in Brookdale ADA lawsuit

A lawsuit against Aegis Living accuses the Bellevue, WA-based senior living community operator of putting its residents at risk of injury by insufficiently staffing communities and not informing residents that its assessment system is not used to determine staffing.

“We are committed to defending this case every step of the way,” Aegis Living said in a statement to McKnight's Senior Living.

Zwerling, Schachter & Zwerling and three other law firms filed the complaint March 18 in King County (WA) Superior Court and hope to have it certified as a class action on behalf of all older adults who live or lived in Aegis Living communities in Washington over the past four years. Such a class could include thousands of people, the firms estimate. Currently, there is one plaintiff, John Shanahan, representing the estate of his mother, Maxine.

“Selecting an assisted living facility is extremely stressful, and people are not in a position to discover the risk of harm they may face,” attorney Kathryn Stebner of Stebner and Associates, one of the firms representing plaintiffs, said in a statement. “The plaintiff brought this case wanting Aegis to adequately disclose the facts about its resident assessments and staffing practices so residents and families can make informed decisions before entering Aegis' facilities.”

Stebner and Associates also is one of three law firms representing plaintiffs in a lawsuit against Brookdale Senior Living. In that complaint, seven current or former residents maintain that the country's largest senior living community operator did not accommodate their disabilities and that understaffing led to their activities of daily living needs not being met according to their residency agreements.

That lawsuit initially was filed in July and has been amended twice to add plaintiffs. The Brookdale-related complaint could become the first class-action lawsuit against an assisted living operator to be brought under the Americans with Disabilities Act, the law firms believe.

Stebner and Associates also is suing Oakmont Senior Living over its handling of evacuation during October wildfires in California and staffing levels in its communities there.

“It should be known that this meritless lawsuit was spearheaded by California class action lawyers conspiring with one another to replicate claims,” Aegis Living said in its statement. “They've filed six identical lawsuits against various elder care providers in California and Washington. The false allegations made by these attorneys are insulting to our company's culture, insulting to our employees who work so hard for our residents, and we are committed to defending this case every step of the way.”

Aegis Living operates 14 assisted living or memory care communities in Washington as well as 14 in California and one in Nevada. Three more communities are scheduled to open in Washington within the next year.

The company, according to the lawsuit, does not disclose to residents that its resident assessment system is not used to determine staffing levels in its communities. Instead, the complaint contends, community staffing is based on pre-determined budgets designed to increase the company's profit and, therefore, staffing is insufficient to provide the care, services and supervision that were deemed necessary based on resident assessments and for which residents pay.

Specifically, the complaint alleges that Aegis Living has violated the Washington Consumer Protection Act and has financially exploited vulnerable adults. The plaintiff is seeking damages and a court order requiring the company to disclose how it makes staffing decisions and other remedial measures.

“Aegis Living provides exceptional and loving care to the residents we serve,” the company told McKnight's Senior Living. “One of the ways we accomplish this is by staffing our communities to meet the needs of our residents and their families — including parents of our own employees. In that regard, we have consistently received awards for being the best family-owned business, best retirement facility and corporate citizenship.”

In 2016, Aegis Living became the first senior living operator named to Glassdoor's list of the Top 50 Best Places to Work.

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