California Suit Settled; Oregon Suit To Settle
LOS ANGELES, Jan. 25 /PRNewswire-USNewswire/ -- An unprecedented move by residential elder care operator Sunwest Management was made recently when it came to the table to settle two class action lawsuits, one in California (Case #07CC00005), which was filed Dec. 21, 2007 in Orange County Superior Court, and one in Oregon (Case #0703-03248), which has received preliminary approval by the Multnomah County Circuit Court and should receive final approval in February 2008.
"I have handled hundreds of elder abuse cases, and never before have I seen a company like Sunwest take a good hard look at itself and willingly come to the table prepared to take responsibility for its actions and to make changes to ensure its residents are given the best possible care it can give them," says Long Beach, Calif., plaintiff attorney Stephen M. Garcia of The Garcia Law Firm. "Most of these companies run and hide so they can continue to profit unlawfully from the pain and suffering of our vulnerable elders. I believe Sunwest is starting a new chapter today."
In a rare break from tradition among elder care facilities, Sunwest Management is not requiring that the settlements be kept confidential. Though the company is not admitting to the specific allegations by settling the cases, the litigation resulted in revealing areas needed to be improved.
The California action settled for $4.5 million, and the Oregon suit settled for $1 million. Sunwest is compensating the plaintiffs in each case with per diem compensation for days spent in a Sunwest "community" during the specified time period. In California, this time frame is Jan. 15, 2003 through Jan. 15, 2007. In Oregon, the range is March 22, 2006 through March 22, 2007.
In the settlements, Sunwest also states that any money not claimed will be used for its facilities and for services for its residents. The company is agreeing to the appointment of an independent monitor who will undertake quarterly inspections of select Sunwest facilities. In order to ensure the credibility of the monitor's independence, Sunwest has chosen to abdicate any involvement in the selection of the monitor, who will be selected by plaintiff attorney Stephen M. Garcia of The Garcia Law Firm.
"Sunwest Management cares about its residents," says Sunwest attorney Timothy R. Graves of Lewis Brisbois Bisgaard & Smith. "After a thorough self-assessment, the company decided that the best way it could demonstrate its concern for each and every resident whose care is entrusted to them was to spend company money in improving residential care rather than spending that same money in litigation."
Sunwest Management, headquartered in Salem, Oregon, operates approximately 250 elder care facilities nationwide. It is one of the leading elder care management and operators of such facilities in the country.
Each of the class action complaints alleged that Sunwest Management, Inc., its directors, and the approximately 16 residential elder care facilities in the state of California and the more than 50 facilities in Oregon that it owns, operates or manages, failed to comply with applicable laws and regulations governing the operation of residential care facilities for the elderly, resulting in the defendants receiving multiple citations of deficiencies from the California Department of Social Services and the Oregon Department of Human Services, respectively.
The lawsuits alleged that Sunwest and its facilities deliberately understaffed its "communities" by forcing each facility to operate under a budget, approved and directed by Sunwest Management and the directors of the individual facilities, that would increase business profits by charging for services that were not provided, such as adequately staffing the residential care facility as it advertises that it does.
"This settlement demonstrates how our civil justice system can spur meaningful social change," says Garcia. "The residents will benefit from safe, specialized care at a Sunwest facility, which is ensured by an independent monitor. Moreover, Sunwest Management has the opportunity to become a nationwide showpiece among elder care facilities known for offering excellent care to its residents while it makes a fair profit for the company."
CONTACT: Geri Wilson
The Jonathan Group
|SOURCE The Garcia Law Firm|
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