Class action lawsuit alleges Bellevue-based Aegis committed consumer fraud, financial exploitation of vulnerable adults

Aegis calls action ‘meritless’ and claims suit is spearheaded by lawyers ‘conspiring with one another’

A multi-law firm, class action lawsuit claims Bellevue-based Aegis Senior Communities has been misleading residents and families at its 14 assisted living facilities in Washington state for years.

Filed in King County Superior Court on March 8 by Zwerling, Schachter & Zwerling, LLP and three other law firms, plaintiff John T. Shanahan accuses Aegis of violating the Consumer Protection Act and financial exploitation of vulnerable adults laws. He claims the senior assisted living facilty did this by failing to disclose they allegedly do not use their resident assessement point system to set staffing at its facilities.

Instead, he claims, Aegis hires staff based on budgets and profit margins.

Because of this, John Shanahan and the law firms believe Aegis has low staffing numbers and therefore provides less care to those who need it the most.

Aegis vehemently denies these claims.

An Aegis spokesperson emailed the following statement from the company: “Aegis Living provides exceptional and loving care to the residents we serve. One of the ways we accomplish this is by staffing our communities to meet the needs of our residents and their families — including parents of our own employees. In that regard, we have consistently received awards for being the Best Family Owned Business, Best Retirement Facility, and Corporate Citizenship. It should be known that this meritless lawsuit was spearheaded by California class action lawyers conspiring with one another to replicate claims. They’ve filed six identical lawsuits against various elder care providers in California and Washington. The false allegations made by these attorneys are insulting to our company’s culture, insulting to our employees who work so hard for our residents; and we are committed to defending this case every step of the way.”

According to court documents, John Shanahan is the son of late-Maxine M. Shanahan, as well as representative of her estate after she died in August 2015. Maxine Shanahan was a resident of Aegis of Bellevue from January 2013 through March 2014.

In the initial contract she signed with Aegis back then, Maxine Shanahan paid a community fee of $8,000 and a daily services fees totalling $207.84 each day ($6,235 a month).

In the contract, she was promised a higher level of care when she experienced a higher level of need and this was based on a point system.

“Simply put, John T. Shanahan reasonably understood that if his mother’s care needs increased, Aegis staff would spend more time assisting her,” the lawsuit states. “As a result, her assessment points would increase.”

But while Maxine Shanahan’s points increased (as well as the bill) as she declined in health, the lawsuit states “Aegis did not make corresponding adjustments to and increases in the staff time devoted to Ms. Shanahan’s care or adjust its facility staffing levels despite the provisions in each individualized service plan.”

According to court documents, her family “found her on multiple occasions in linen and adult diapers soiled with urine and feces. Her teeth, hair and nails were often left unclean” and she even required hospitalization after doctors discovered she was dehydrated.

“On numerous other occasions, Ms. Shanahan’s family members found her unattended on the floor tanled in her bedding,” the lawsuit continues. “She had sustained numerous unattended falls at Aegis, resulting in lacerations and bruises throughout her body.”

And, despite Aegis charging the woman for nutritional oversight, she lost six pounds in a three week period, the lawsuit claims.

In a March 2015 case, Terrence A. Ervin with Aegis allegedly testified in a deposition that although Aegis used its resident assessment sotfware to determine care points and fees, “it did not use that software to determine staffing levels or in developing the staffing budget for each facility at the corporate level,” court documents state.

“Selecting an assisted living facility is extremely stressful, and people are not in a position to discover the risk of harm they may face,” attorney Kathryn Stebner said in a news release. “The plaintiff brought this case wanting Aegis to adequately disclose the facts about its resident assessments and staffing practices so residents and families can make informed decisions before entering Aegis’s facilities.”

The class action was filed on behalf of all persons who reside or have resided in Aegis’s assisted living facilities in Washington during the last four years. The class is estimated to include thousands of elders and other vulnerable adults.

The plaintiff will seek damages and a court order requiring Aegis to disclose how it makes staffing decisions and other remedial measures.

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