Class action lawsuit filed against nursing home owner after deadly mass shelter fiasco
JEFFERSON PARISH - A lawsuit filed in Jefferson Parish this week paints a grim picture of what happened inside an ill-fated makeshift shelter where several nursing homes packed more than 800 residents, seven of whom have since died, in horrific conditions while they rode out Hurricane Ida.
The class action suit, filed by family members of a resident who was evacuated to the shelter, is seeking damages from Baton Rouge businessman and nursing home owner Bob Dean Jr.. The documents allege Dean and his companies crammed about 850 people into the Waterbury Building, which has a capacity of about 200 to 400.
The state health department has since pulled the licenses of the seven nursing homes that evacuated there. The Louisiana Attorney General's Office is also heading an investigation looking into what happened.
Families also claim mattresses were placed on the floor, toe-to-toe and side-by-side, with no regard for social distancing and that those beds began to float when the warehouse took on water during the storm.
"Generators failed and due to water intrusion, a number of residents were on mattresses that began to float in the water," according to the suit.
There were also insufficient beds, meaning some residents had to sleep in wheelchairs, and some so-called "corporate nurses" reserved as many as three mattresses for themselves, according to the suit.
The lawsuit claims, "evacuating the residents to the Waterbury Building was not done pursuant to any established hurricane evacuation plan put into place at any of the Bob Dean Jr. Nursing Homes, and in fact conflicted with the written policies and procedures that were in place, as well as with relevant Louisiana laws."
The warehouse was also reportedly equipped with only four sinks and no more than a dozen showers to accommodate all residents and staff. Once the power went out, temperatures began to rise, and documents say some staff members and residents would uncontrollably vomit because of the stench coming from the "putrid" port-a-lets.
"There were some experienced nurses there, some that were still trying to care for the residents under their care that were ill, nauseated and vomiting from the stench of over 840 human beings in the heat and unclean in an unsanitary situation," Blair Constant, an attorney representing those on the class action lawsuit said.
The lawsuit also claims that Dean personally refused to let state workers inspect the facility and demanded they leave the property just days before the state evacuated the building.
In wake of a massive rescue effort that saw state health employees removing more than 800 residents from the warehouse in the span of about 24 hours last week, many of those victims have been moved to different facilities around the state. The family that filed the suit claims they and many others still have not been able to locate their loved ones. The family's attorney is calling on others affected to join the suit.
"These people were treated less than animals," Constant said. "There's no way else to say it. Absolutely, they will have their day in court and will have their ability to tell their story."
Multiple attempts to reach Bob Dean have been unsuccessful.