Sunrise Senior Living has been slapped with a false advertising class action lawsuit alleging the assisted living facility defrauded seniors and their family members on the level of care they actually receive. Sunrise provides assisted living and memory care for senior citizens and person with disabilities at facilities nationwide, including 52 facilities that it owns and operates in California.
Plaintiff Audrey Heredia, as successor-in-interest to her now deceased husbands’ estate, filed the false advertising Sunrise Senior Living class action lawsuit, claiming she was deceived by the company’ representation that the care her late husband Carlos would receive was based on a resident assessment. Instead, she contends this is not true and that the assisted living centers base their resident care practices around labor budgets instead of residents’ needs.
Carlos Heredia lived at a Sunrise facility in Santa Ana, California for nearly a year. He passed away in March 2016. His wife and daughter made health care decisions for him. When deciding to move Carlos to Sunrise, adequate staffing was a major concern, since they believed another assisted living facility not part of the Sunrise chain did not have proper staffing to care for Carlos.
After meeting with the Executive Director, Mrs. Heredia and her daughter, Vivian, reviewed the resident contract and understood its representation regarding the resident assessment, service level, service plan, and fee structure to mean that the staff would assess Carlos, identify his needs, and provide services as necessary. They also understood that as Carlos’ needs and services increased, he would require more staff time, and that Sunrise would provide this in exchange for a higher rate.
Relying on all of Sunrise’s promises, Carlos entered the facility in June 2014 and paid a move-in fee of $4,050. Approximately six weeks later, the Heredias began noticing problems related to understaffing. Carlos’ daughter asked the staff if they could occasionally take her father to the courtyard for some fresh air, but was told there was not enough staff available to do that. At the end of July, Carlos fell and received stitches in his face, after staff did not respond to his call-pendant and he was forced to transfer alone from his bed to his wheelchair.
In October 2014, the Heredias notices that the staff was not taking Carlos’ blood pressure as frequently as Sunrise had represented they would do and as ordered by his physician. The family actually had to hire an outside provider to deliver this service. Carlos also complained to his family that the staff never responded when he called them for help to getting to the toilet, which made him so uncomfortable that his physical therapist recommended that he keep a trash can next to his bed for urinating. Carlos fell approximately six or more time as a result of the staff not responding to his calls.
Then, in February 2015, Sunrise increased Carlos’ service points and fees from $77 a day to $99, because he required “significantly more time” for his level of care. Despite the increase in fees, Carlos did not receive increased staff attention, according to the Sunrise Senior Living class action lawsuit.
To make matters worse, in April 2015, Carlos nearly died from a medication error, which often occurs at facilities that are understaffed. He suffered from an overdose after he received prescription opiates that were not even prescribed to him. His family moved him out of Sunrise immediately after the overdose.
“Contrary to the express and implied representations in the Sunrise standardized contract and other uniform written statements, Sunrise does not the resident assessment system or consider assessment scores in setting or providing facility staffing. Sunrise conceals this material fact from the residents, their family members, and the general public,” the Sunrise Senior Living class action lawsuit states.
The Sunrise Senior Living class action lawsuit also points out that Sunrise’s promotional materials and their website also indicate that the company uses its resident assessment system to ensure adequate staffing and meet all residents’ needs. But the Heredia family says that in reality, Sunrise only uses this resident assessment system to assign service levels and charge higher rates, not to set staffing.
“As reflected in corporate policies and procedures, Sunrise directs its facilities to make meeting labor budgets and operating income targets a paramount concern, regardless of the impact on the care and staffing needs of facility residents,” the Sunrise Senior Living class action lawsuit contends.
Heredia is joined in this lawsuit by plaintiff Corbina Mancuso, who details a similar experience with her now deceased mother at Sunrise Senior Living.
Heredia and Mancuso are seeking to represent a certified class of all persons who “resided at or reside at one the California assisted living facilities owned and/or operated by Sunrise under the Sunrise name from June 27, 2013 through the present, and who contracted with Sunrise for services for which Sunrise was paid money.”
The plaintiffs are represented by Kathryn A. Stebner, Kelly Knapp, and George Kawamoto of Stebner & Associates; Christopher J. Healey of Dentons US LLP; and Robert S. Arns and Julie C. Erickson of The Arns Law Firm.
The Sunrise Senior Living Class Action Lawsuit is Heredia, et al. v. Sunrise Senior Living LLC, et al., Case No. 4:18-cv-00616-HSG, in the U.S. District Court for the Northern District of California.