Four current or former residents join ADA lawsuit against Brookdale Senior Living

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Photo: North Carolina State University Center for Universal Design
Photo: North Carolina State University Center for Universal Design

Four current or former assisted living residents of Brookdale Senior Living communities added their names on Thursday to the lawsuit accusing the country's largest senior living community operator of violating the Americans with Disabilities Act of 1990. They join three other plaintiffs in what their attorneys have said could become the first class action lawsuit against an assisted living provider filed under the ADA.

Brookdale serves more than 5,000 residents in 89 assisted living communities in California, according to the three law firms representing the plaintiffs. Potential damages, therefore, could exceed $45 million, because the lawsuit is seeking a minimum of $9,000 for each affected resident, one of the attorneys representing the plaintiffs previously told McKnight's Senior Living.

The 100-page amended lawsuit was filed in the U.S. District Court for the Northern District of California.

This is the second amended complaint to the original lawsuit, which was filed in July with four plaintiffs. A spokeswoman for Brentwood, TN-based Brookdale told McKnight's Senior Living at the time that the company would defend itself “vigorously” against the legal action, which it believes does not have merit.

An amended complaint added two more plaintiffs in August. The names of two of the original plaintiffs and one plaintiff from the first amended complaint no longer appear on the lawsuit, which now has a total of seven plaintiffs.

The three former plaintiffs “dismissed their claims without prejudice,” Gay Grunfeld, an attorney for Rosen Bien Galvan & Grunfeld LLC, told McKnight's Senior Living. “They are no longer in the case but still support it,” she said.

The current and former residents maintain that Brookdale did not accommodate their disabilities and that understaffing led to their activities of daily living needs not being met according to their residency agreements.

“The second amended complaint is substantially similar to the two previous complaints in the claims that it's making. It mainly is adding these new plaintiffs,” Grunfeld said. “All the allegations that we've made are very serious, and we look forward to an opportunity to prove them and to certify the class and to get injunctive relief, forcing Brookdale to stop its practices of deceiving seniors and failing to accommodate their disabilities.”

The new plaintiffs added Thursday:

  • Edward Boris, 86, lived in assisted living at Brookdale Fountaingrove in Santa Rosa, CA, from September 2015 to August 2016 before moving to skilled nursing. While in assisted living, he used a walker and a wheelchair and needed assistance with catheter care, toileting, medication management, bathing and getting to and from the dining room and activities, the complaint states.
  • Bernadette “Bernie” Jestrabek-Hart, 72, has been a resident of Brookdale Scotts Valley, Scotts Valley, CA, since October 2015. She uses an electric wheelchair and cane for mobility, has sleep apnea and needs assistance with dressing, bathing, food preparation and transportation, according to the lawsuit.
  • Patricia Lindstrom, 81, who has been a resident of Brookdale Scotts Valley since November 2015. She had moved there with her husband, Arthur, who passed away in February at the age of 83. Pat Lindstrom is representing his interests in the lawsuit. Arthur Lindstrom used a cane, had cognitive impairment and diabetes and needed assistance with bathing, shaving, medication management, dressing, laundry and meal preparation, the complaint states.
  • Ralph Schmidt, 54, has a traumatic brain injury that left him blind and cognitively impaired. He was a resident of Brookdale Tracy, Tracy, CA, from 2011 through October 2017.  His interests are being represented by professional fiduciary Heather Fisher. Schmidt needed assistance with housekeeping, laundry, navigating when outside of his dwelling, meal preparation and transportation, according to the lawsuit.

Grunfeld said it's “very possible” that more current or former residents will want to join the lawsuit. Her firm and the others involved with the case will file a motion asking that the lawsuit be decided as a class action, but federal law requires that the suit reach the discovery stage first, she added.

“This case is one that's going to go forward,” Grunfeld said. “We are determined to address the issues. This is a substantial and serious complaint, and we are going to pursue these claims as expeditiously as we can on behalf of the new plaintiffs and the plaintiffs who started the case. We are eager to get going with discovery.”

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