Attorneys say that The Citadel’s ownership under-staffed the facility and did not adhere to proper coronavirus mitigation guidance.
A class action lawsuit has been filed against The Citadel nursing home in North Carolina, which, at one point, had the most recorded coronavirus cases of any assisted living facility in the state.
WCNC.com reports that, since the beginning of the pandemic, The Citadel suffered at least 189 individual coronavirus cases alongside 18 coronavirus-related deaths.
The class action claims that part of the reason The Citadel was hit so badly was because of “severe systematic understaffing.” However, the law firm behind the suit says the understaffing had far less to do with the pandemic than the owner’s business model, which purportedly caused residents to be mistreated.
“Because of the Facility’s dire conditions, it is no surprise that The Citadel Salisbury became the site of one of the earliest and largest COVID-19 outbreaks at any congregate care setting in North Carolina, as confirmed by testing of numerous residents which occurred on April 10, 2020,” the lawsuit states.
Attorneys say the COVID situation in The Citadel was facilitated, in large part, by the facility’s change of ownership in early 2020. Specifically, the lawsuit claims that the new ownership, Portopiccolo, did not take any measures to ensure that patient charts and medical documents carried over from prior management.
Portopiccolo, notes WCNC, controlled no nursing homes at the beginning of 2016—but now operates more than 120 across the United States.
The lawsuit suggests that Portopiccolo has “grown its enterprise by reckless cost-cutting measures that have led to it owning facilities predominately ranked as only one- or two-star by the official U.S. government.”
Kelly Moody Fesperman said she had been led to believe that her father, Kenneth Moody, would be shielded from the outbreak when he moved into The Citadel in 2020. However, The Citadel did not take any special precautions, and Kenneth passed not long after he arrived.
In fact, Kelly Moody says her father was not even quarantined when he first arrived to The Citadel, even though she had been led to believe he would be kept away from other residents.
“We were told we would be in a private room for two weeks, sort of like a quarantine, so we assumed that would happen,” told WCNC. “It didn’t happen. He was put into a room with a roommate. After he passed away, we found out the roommate had COVID.”
Moody died on April 21st; his daughter says she was not even informed that he was sick until Kenneth was almost dead.
“[The doctor] said, ‘Your dad is dying,’ and we didn’t even know he was sick,” she said.
The lawsuit cites numerous other instances of apparent neglect: one resident, Betty Deal, was allegedly denied her Parkinson’s medication more than 20 times; she, too, later tested positive for coronavirus.
The class action alleges that “part of Defendants’ for-profit private-equity business model was to cut costs and reduce staff to minimum numbers.” Attorneys say this model was inherently reckless, negligent, and intentional—leading to disastrous effects after coronavirus struck.
The lawsuit is requesting compensatory damages for the plaintiffs.