INDEPENDENCE, La. — Facing more than a dozen lawsuits claiming poor treatment of patients from his seven nursing homes during an ill-fated evacuation during Hurricane Ida, the embattled owner of those facilities has fired back in court, asking for the cases to be thrown out.
Bob Dean Jr. filed a motion in federal court Friday to dismiss the lawsuits, which are under consideration as a class action. The lawsuits claim that the patients suffered from neglect after being brought to a former industrial warehouse in Tangipahoa Parish that was leaky, over-crowded and poorly equipped.
As conditions grew dire inside the Dean-owned warehouse four days after Ida hit, state Department of Health raided the building and evacuated the 843 patients in a caravan of ambulances. LDH said the deaths of at least five of those patients were directly linked to the evacuation and conditions at the warehouse.
LDH revoked the licenses of all seven of Dean’s nursing homes, a move that Dean is currently appealing.
In an interesting twist in his motion to kill the lawsuits, Dean’s attorneys cite a law used by the plaintiffs in most of the suits – the Nursing Home Residents Bill of Rights – claiming it blocks them from collecting damages.
In his 17-page motion, Dean claims he is protected by a provision that in the law that only allows patients to seek an injunction – immediate court-ordered relief – but not damages.
Dean’s Metairie-based attorneys, Andrew Weinstock and Philip Watson of Metairie, wrote that the law allowed damage claims until 2003 when “the Legislature amended the Act to eliminate the provision in the statute that provided for the recovery of ‘actual damages.’ ”
“Because the shelter was emptied before the suit was filed, there is no justiciable issue for the Court to decide,” Dean’s attorneys wrote.
Dean also claims that the lawsuits involve complaints about medical treatment, which must first go before a review panel as an initial step in a medical malpractice claim.
“All malpractice claims against health care providers shall be reviewed by a medical review panel,” Dean’s attorneys wrote.
Several attorneys representing patients in the pending lawsuits said Dean’s motion to throw out the suits are the equivalent of a Hail Mary.
“This is standard defense practice: consolidate the cases and ask for them to be dismissed,” said attorney Madro Banderies, who is representing a
woman whose leg was amputated after the ordeal. “What is also standard is that very few of those motions get granted.”
Attorney Donald Massey, who is suing on behalf of several patients, said there are a number of problems with Dean’s motion, especially the medical malpractice issue.
“Food, water and oxygen are what any decent human being would provide,” Massey said. “These are not complex medical claims. Dean’s motion is baseless and exactly the type of obfuscation we’ve been seeing from Dean and his companies.”
“I can’t believe a lawyer would sign his name to such an allegation,” he said. “It’s more than a stretch, it’s actually disingenuous, to claim that basic needs like food and water are specialized medical needs.”
In addition to the lawsuits, Dean is also facing criminal and administrative investigations by the state attorney general’s office.