PA Supreme Court Ruling: Attorney General’s Lawsuit to Protect Seniors in Nursing Homes is Reinstated

September 28, 2018 | Topic: Consumers

Attorney General Josh Shapiro: “This is a significant victory for Pennsylvania’s seniors and their families who put their trust in others to care for their loved ones”

HARRISBURG – In an important court ruling for Pennsylvania seniors and families who place their trust in nursing homes to care for their loved ones, the Pennsylvania Supreme Court has reversed an appeals court decision and reinstated the Office of Attorney General’s lawsuit against the Golden Living nursing home chain. The Attorney General’s suit alleges the company engaged in deceptive conduct to lure seniors to live in its facilities, and then provided substandard care.

“The Supreme Court’s decision allowing our lawsuit against this nursing home chain to continue is a significant victory for Pennsylvania seniors and their families,” Attorney General Shapiro said. “When a family places their loved one in a senior living facility, they have the right to expect that the claims the facility makes to attract them are true, and that their senior will be well cared for. We will pursue this case against this nursing home chain, and any misleading claims by others, for the protection and well-being of every senior and family making these decisions in Pennsylvania.”

Attorney General Shapiro explained the major impacts of the court’s ruling:

  • The Office of Attorney General has authority and standing to investigate and prosecute companies that take advantage of senior citizens and consumers by confusing or misleading them with fraudulent or deceptive conduct.
  • Unlawful conduct under Pennsylvania’s Unfair Trade Practices and Consumer Protection Law is not limited to merely advertising, but also includes other fraudulent or deceptive conduct which creates a likelihood of confusion for consumers.
  • The Commonwealth itself is a “person of interest” under consumer protection law and may recover restitution gained in violation of the law, as well as other financial penalties.

This is important because in its suit, the Attorney General alleges that Golden Living created false billing statements for care that was not actually provided to seniors, and in cases where the senior received Medicaid or Medicare, the false bills were paid by the Commonwealth with public funds.  Under this ruling, the Commonwealth can recover those public funds – a win for taxpayers.

The Office of Attorney General initially filed suit in 2015 against a series of entities which operated Golden Living nursing homes throughout Pennsylvania for failing to provide the quality of care which it promised to seniors. In 2017, the Commonwealth Court dismissed the Attorney General’s case, holding the nursing home chain’s misleading claims amounted to mere puffery. The Attorney General’s office appealed that ruling to the Pennsylvania Supreme Court.

In May, Executive Deputy Attorney General Jonathan Scott Goldman argued the Attorney General’s case before the Supreme Court, leading to this week’s ruling reinstating the suit and remanding it back to Commonwealth Court for further action.

“Protecting care-dependent Pennsylvanians matters deeply to me and the committed attorneys working on this case and many others involving our senior citizens,” Attorney General Shapiro said. “This ruling allows my team to hold businesses accountable for deceptive, misleading practices under our Commonwealth’s consumer protection law.”

At the time the lawsuit was filed, Golden Living owned 25 nursing facilities named in the suit:

  • Golden LivingCenter – Blue Ridge Mountain (Harrisburg)
  • Golden LivingCenter – Camp Hill
  • Golden LivingCenter – Clarion
  • Golden LivingCenter – Doylestown
  • Golden LivingCenter – East Mountain (Wilkes-Barre)
  • Golden LivingCenter – Gettysburg
  • Golden LivingCenter – Hillview (Altoona)
  • Golden LivingCenter – Lancaster
  • Golden LivingCenter – Lansdale
  • Golden LivingCenter – Mansion (Sunbury)
  • Golden LivingCenter – Monroeville
  • Golden LivingCenter – Mt. Lebanon
  • Golden LivingCenter – Murrysville
  • Golden LivingCenter – Phoenixville
  • Golden LivingCenter – Reading
  • Golden LivingCenter – Rosemont
  • Golden LivingCenter – Scranton
  • Golden LivingCenter – Shippenville
  • Golden LivingCenter – Stenton (Philadelphia)
  • Golden LivingCenter – Summit (Wilkes Barre)
  • Golden LivingCenter – Tunkhannock
  • Golden LivingCenter – Uniontown
  • Golden LivingCenter – Western Reserve (Erie)
  • Golden LivingCenter – West Shore
  • Golden LivingCenter – York Terrace (Pottsville)

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