Garcia & Artigliere, a nationally-known law firm focused on elder rights and nursing home litigation, has filed a class action lawsuit in the Orange County Superior Court on behalf of residents of Aspen Skilled Healthcare, Inc., Aspen Healthcare Services, LLC, and AOCL, LLC which operates a California skilled nursing facility under the name Country Crest Post-Acute in Laguna Nigel, California, alleging multiple violations of California laws. Specifically, the class action cites Violations of the Consumer Legal Remedies Act, Unfair Competition Laws, and Violations of Resident Rights under the Health & Safety Code.

About the class action lawsuit

Under California law, all skilled nursing facilities are required by law to provide their residents with their “Resident Bill of Rights” as part of the admission process into the skilled nursing facility. One of these “rights” to be respected by the skilled nursing facility is as stated in Health & Safety Code §1599.1(a) which requires that “(a) The facility shall employ an adequate number of qualified personnel to carry out all of the functions of the facility.” The lawsuit alleges that throughout the class period the Aspen facility did not have sufficient “direct caregivers” on duty to meet the needs of the facility residents.

Attorney Stephen Garcia remarked “ensuring the sufficiency of staff to meet the needs of residents is the most fundamental of responsibilities of a skilled nursing facility. And in fact, the United States Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services (CMS) has written, ‘There is considerable evidence of a relationship between nursing home staffing levels and resident outcomes. The CMS Staffing Study, among other research, found a clear association between nurse staffing ratios and nursing home quality of care. There is also a growing body of evidence on the relationship between staff turnover and resident outcomes, with higher turnover associated with poorer quality of care.”’  As Garcia noted, “CMS is absolutely correct, and it is a simple metric more staff equates to better care for the elderly and infirm residents of a skilled nursing facility. This lawsuit seeks to compel Aspen to staff at levels required to meet the needs of its residents, a pretty fundamental obligation and right.”

The residents of the skilled nursing facility are elderly, infirm, and vulnerable. They or their loved ones signed these admission agreements with a promise that there would be sufficient staff to meet their needs and the lawsuit alleges this simply did not occur. Specifically, the complaint alleges that, “the DEFENDANTS actively and intentionally concealed from Plaintiff and class members that DEFENDANTS chronically understaffed the FACILITY with an inadequate number of ‘Direct Caregivers’ to carry out the function of the FACILITY,” thereby violating the resident rights and putting them in harm’s way.

The law requires that all skilled nursing facilities have a staffing level that meets the needs of its patients, even if that means more than the bare minimum. The residents of these facilities had needs significant enough (“Collective resident acuity”) to warrant the additional staff. The lawsuit alleges that the defendants “artificially and fraudulently” inflated these staff ratios to the public and to the government by including the work hours of non-direct care staff as part of their overall reported hours for the facility. They did so by:

  • Including mandatory rest breaks as working hours, thus inflating the overall ratio,
  • Failing to hire additional staff even though the facilities were “woefully understaffed,” and
  • Failing to adjust staffing numbers based on the actual collective resident acuity, which required a 4.1 nursing hour ration instead of the bare minimum of 3.5.

The lawsuit, filed by and through James Saephan, successor in interest to Chiem Saephan, was filed in Superior Court of California, County of Orange. It seeks an injunction that would prevent the facilities from further violating their residents’ rights, such as maintaining 3.94 nursing hours per day per resident; reporting all acts or suspected acts of abuse to the appropriate authorities; submission of compliance of reporting requirements; quarterly surveys of residents; and more. It also seeks damages on behalf of the members as well as attorneys’ fees.

Garcia & Artigliere maintains multiple offices across the United States and has served as legal counsel in matters leading to more than $3 billion in awards for consumers. The attorneys focus on helping injured people and disenfranchised consumers in litigation involving nursing home abuse and neglect, wrongful death, and delayed treatment of stroke.

To learn more, visit Garcia & Artigliere, or contact the firm.

Contact Information:

Name: Stephen M. Garcia
Email: [email protected]
Job Title: Partner