Attorney General Bonta Announces $3.25 Million Settlement with Brookdale Senior Living for Misrepresenting Quality of Care and Putting Seniors, People with Disabilities at Risk

Friday, March 11, 2022
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Today's settlement pertains to Brookdale's current nursing facility in the city of Bakersfield, as well as its former facilities in the cities of Camarillo, Carlsbad, Northridge, Rancho Mirage, San Diego, San Dimas, San Juan Capistrano, Santa Rosa, and Yorba Linda

OAKLAND – California Attorney General Rob Bonta today, alongside a coalition of District and City Attorneys led by Kern County District Attorney Cynthia Zimmer, announced a $3.25 million settlement with Tennessee-based Brookdale Senior Living, Inc. (Brookdale), the nation’s largest senior living operator. The settlement resolves allegations that Brookdale’s ten California skilled nursing facilities failed to adequately notify and prepare residents for both transfers and discharges and misrepresented its quality of care to the public by reporting false information, including over-reporting the number of hours that nurses provided care to residents, to the Centers for Medicare & Medicaid (CMS). The false information that Brookdale provided to CMS was used to award “star ratings” to each of Brookdale's California facilities, ratings that were used by consumers as a means of selecting a quality skilled nursing facility. Through its misrepresentations to CMS, Brookdale fraudulently increased its star rating in several categories to attract prospective residents and their families. Today's settlement is a stipulated judgment that resolves the People’s lawsuit against Brookdale.

“Skilled nursing facilities should always provide their residents with the highest standard of care. Instead, Brookdale put seniors and people with disabilities at risk, and misled prospective residents and their families about the quality of its California facilities,” said Attorney General Bonta. “My office is committed to protecting our most vulnerable communities. Today’s settlement will hold Brookdale accountable by making certain that its California locations are in full compliance with the law and provide truthful information for Californians to use when choosing a facility for themselves or their loved ones."

“Residents of skilled nursing facilities are among the most vulnerable members of our community,” said Kern County District Attorney Cynthia Zimmer. “This judgment will make our vulnerable seniors safer by bringing a monitor into Brookdale’s facilities, providing more funding for Kern County’s long-term care ombudsman program, and sending a message to other skilled nursing facility operators — if you put profits ahead of the safety of your vulnerable residents, you will be held accountable.” 

“My Office takes very seriously any allegations that skilled nursing facilities are either misrepresenting their quality of care or failing to follow the law related to patient discharges,” said Alameda County District Attorney Nancy O’Malley. “It is the responsibility and legal mandate of those who own and run skilled nursing facilities to ensure that the care and attention given to residents meet the legal standards. I am proud to stand with the Attorney General’s Office in holding facilities accountable, when necessary, and in protecting vulnerable people who need skilled nursing care.”

“This case demonstrates that we will hold senior living facilities accountable to follow the rules regarding proper notification before release or transfer of an elderly person in their care. Family members need to be able to count on their loved one will be cared for and the law will be followed,” said San Diego County District Attorney Summer Stephan. “This lawsuit exposed the kind of misrepresentation that won’t be tolerated when it comes to protecting some of the most vulnerable in our community. Brookdale’s actions put seniors and people with disabilities at risk. I’m gratified to join my fellow District Attorneys, Los Angeles City Attorney and the Attorney General in this settlement and appreciate the hard work of the San Diego DA’s Consumer Protection Unit.” 

“Protecting the elderly and disabled is one of the highest priorities for the Santa Cruz County District Attorney’s Office,” said Santa Cruz County District Attorney Jeffrey Rosell. “We are pleased with the settlement reached with Brookdale; it reflects the joint efforts in our partnership with other District Attorney Offices and the Attorney General’s Office.”

“Our coalition’s success against the nation’s largest senior living operator sends a strong message to every nursing home in California: Treat your patients well, tell the truth about the care you provide to them and discharge them with dignity — or we’ll hold you accountable,” said Los Angeles City Attorney Mike Feuer. “Time and time again, my Office has fought for the safety, protection, health and wellness of nursing home residents — among the most vulnerable people in our community.” 

Today’s settlement resolves allegations that Brookdale failed to properly notify its residents and families of transfers and discharges. Skilled nursing facilities are required to give notice of transfer or discharge at least 30 days in advance, or as soon as practicable. Brookdale failed to timely provide this required notice to its residents, with a copy to the local ombudsmen. Brookdale also failed to properly prepare its residents for transfer or discharge. As a result of these actions, Brookdale endangered the health of its residents and also left families scrambling to find other places to care for their loved ones. 

The settlement also resolves allegations that Brookdale misrepresented the quality of its care to the public by reporting false information to CMS. As a means of helping the public to choose a skilled nursing facility, CMS rates facilities on several quality measures on a scale of one to five stars, which are then posted to the CMS website for members of the public to view. Specifically, Brookdale over-reported its nursing staffing hours to CMS, and by doing so, was awarded undeserved four-and five-star ratings. By partaking in these unfair business practices, Brookdale violated both the Unfair Competition Law and False Advertising Law.

As part of the settlement, Brookdale will be required to: 

  • Stop engaging in the illegal practices alleged in the complaint;
  • Appoint a monitor to oversee compliance at its Kern County Facility; and
  • Pay $2.4 million in civil penalties, $550,000 in costs, and $300,000 to the Kern County Long Term Care Ombudsman.

In today’s announcement, Attorney General Bonta is joined by the District Attorneys of Kern, Alameda, San Diego, and Santa Cruz Counties, as well as the Los Angeles City Attorney.

A copy of the stipulated judgment is available here.

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