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Lawsuit filed over ‘horrific and inhumane’ conditions at nursing home evacuation warehouse where 7 died

A door is propped open to a warehouse in Independence, Louisiana, used as an evacuation shelter...
A door is propped open to a warehouse in Independence, Louisiana, used as an evacuation shelter for residents from seven different nursing homes.(WVUE-TV)
Published: Sep. 8, 2021 at 1:52 PM CDT
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JEFFERSON PARISH, La. (WVUE) - A class-action lawsuit has been filed against Bob Dean and the seven nursing homes he owns after seven residents died during an evacuation ahead of Hurricane Ida.

The lawsuit says nursing home residents “endured horrific and inhumane conditions” due to negligence on Dean’s part.

Over 850 nursing home residents were evacuated to Dean’s warehouse in Independence, La. Seven residents died. At least four of the deaths were declared storm-related by the parish coroner.

Four nursing home residents and their families filed suit in Jefferson Parish against the nursing homes and their owner, Bob Dean. Two of the people named in the lawsuit lived at Park Place in Gretna, the other two at the South Lafourche Nursing and Rehab facility.

The lawsuit described the “inhumane” conditions that residents have been describing and attaches some pictures to help prove it.

“It was horrific, that’s the only term I can use,” Attorney Rob Couhig said. “If it had been my father or my mother I don’t know if I would be as civil as I am today.”

The lawsuit alleges Dean and the nursing home “intentionally misrepresented the actual evacuation plan, choosing not to inform family members... of where the residents were being taken.” The suit says because of the COVID-19 pandemic, the building was designed to hold between 200 and 400 people. Pictures from inside the warehouse were included in the lawsuit showing mattresses side-by-side with little to no space in between.

The warehouse had “four sinks” and ten to twelve showers and a small number of portable toilets, according to the lawsuit. Attorneys also allege “some residents were forced to sleep in wheelchairs... others on concrete floors.” The suit says the building was not hurricane proof and rainwater started to come into the warehouse. A number of residents who were on mattresses began to float in the water.

The lawsuit says the “generators failed and the air conditioning system quit running... making conditions even more unbearable.”

“It was a nightmare and what we have to do is we have to work with the court to make sure that the nightmare ends and we can put these people back in a place that they should be,” Couhig said. “Nobody should have the last years of their lives thumped about like they’ve had and they should be protected.”

Did you work inside or have a family member evacuated to the Independence, Louisiana warehouse shelter? E-mail us at fox8investigates@fox8live.com

Attorney Morris Bart said he also has clients from the warehouse shelter and will be filing suit soon in Orleans Parish.

“It’s unconscionable,” Attorney Morris Bart said. “One of our three clients is in the hospital now as a result of what happened. You can’t imagine not just the indignity but the horrific conditions of lying in your own urine and feces and lying on a mattress on the ground with water all around you.

“And to add insult to injury, the family members didn’t know where they were. The family members found out where their loved ones were the same way I and everybody else found out about it by watching the news,” Bart said.

In an interview with FOX 8 on the day his residents were being removed from the warehouse, nursing home owner Bob Dean defended his decision to move residents to the warehouse. He said the deaths experienced were not out of the ordinary for a nursing home.

“We only had five deaths within the six days and normally with 850 people you’ll have a couple a day, so we did really good with taking care of people,” Dean said.

Evacuation plans from the seven nursing homes that had licenses revoked showed they claimed to be prepared for a large evacuation with plans for supplies and food, but the Louisiana Department of Health and families of those evacuated ahead of Hurricane Ida disagree.

CONTINUING COVERAGE:

Nursing homes claimed they were ready for evacuation, LDH and families disagree

Nursing home residents evacuated to warehouse describe ‘nightmare’ conditions

Licenses revoked of nursing homes involved in warehouse shelter evacuation where 7 died

LDH took action against the seven nursing homes on Tuesday, after conditions were found to be deteriorating at a warehouse being used as shelter. The warehouse was owned by the same man that owned all seven nursing homes, businessman Bob Dean.

Tangipahoa Parish officials said they were only aware of a few hundred that were planned to be housed at the warehouse, but that number grew to more than 800.

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