A national chain of nursing homes with three care centers in Orange County is being accused of systematically neglecting its patients.
A lawsuit filed this week in Orange County Superior Court claims the 13 Southern California nursing homes owned by Life Care Centers of Americafailed to hire enough doctors, nurses and others to adequately care for its acutely ill patients. The suit, which lists the family of a Lake Forest woman, Consuelo Deburger, as its client, is seeking class action status.
Calls to Life Care's headquarters in Cleveland, Tenn., and to the hospitals listed as its Orange County operations, were not returned. The company's attorney was not listed on the complaint.
The suit claims the company owns Orangegrove Rehabilitation Hospital in Garden Grove, La Habra Convalescent Hospital in La Habra and Lake Forest Nursing Center in Lake Forest. Though it's unclear how many patients are in each center, the chain typically runs facilities that serve between 85 and 120 acutely ill patients.
"This is a case where they draw in the sickest of the sick and then fail to take care of them," said Stephen Garcia, a Long Beach attorney who filed the lawsuit. Garcia – who said he has filed "about ten" other cases against Life Care Centers over the years – said in a press release that privately held Life Care owns more than 260 hospitals nationally and generated sales of nearly $1 billion in 2006.
A 2006 report on Medicare cases filed by the U.S. Attorney's office in Atlanta said Life Care Center paid $2.5 million to settle a similar case in Atlanta. That payout was described as the largest settlement ever in a "quality-of-care-based false claims" case.