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Two nursing homes in New Jersey are facing a new class action lawsuit filed by the nephew of a man who died from COVID-19 at one of the facilities.

Brian Roberts is suing because he claims the Andover Subacute Rehabilitation centers in Lafayette Township failed to protect his uncle, Albert C. Roberts, and nearly 100 other residents from contracting the novel coronavirus and dying from it, despite having been warned for years that they were inadequately prepared for such an outbreak.

Inspections conducted since at least 2015 by the Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services, the agency charged with regulation and oversight of the care facilities, turned up “consistent findings” that the nursing homes “failed to meet the requisite safety and sanitary standards needed to protect against the spread of infection and communicable disease among its residents and patients,” the class action lawsuit says.

Roberts filed his class action lawsuit against the sister care homes Andover Subacute Rehabilitation I and Andover Subacute Rehabilitation II; Alliance Healthcare, which manages the care homes; and owners Louis Schwartz and Chaim Scheinbaum in the Superior Court of New Jersey in Sussex County on Sept. 8. Roberts is the executor of his uncle’s estate.

Shortly after the coronavirus pandemic prompted federal officials to declare a state of emergency in the U.S. on March 13, an outbreak of COVID-19 cases erupted at the Andover care homes, the class action says.

According to the class action lawsuit, Albert C. Roberts soon contracted the virus and “suffered severe respiratory illness and other injuries.” He died on April 1 at Andover II.

Ten days later, the Andover Police Department was asked to bring 25 body bags to the care home. When officers delivered them the following day, they found “five dead bodies being stored in a small holding room in Andover II.”

A day later, acting on an anonymous tip about another body “being stored in a shed,” police went back to Andover II and discovered 12 more dead bodies being stored in “a small holding room.”

Roberts’ class action claims none of the 17 people whose bodies the police discovered had been reported dead to their families members or to the authorities.

“It has been widely reported that, at or around that time, many family members and other authorized representatives of residents were unable to get in contact with staff or personnel of the facilities,” the class action lawsuit says. “In many cases, family members went multiple weeks without receiving any” information about their loved ones’ conditions.

Wheelchairs and gurneys sit in a hospital hallway - nursing homesResponding to the COVID-19 outbreak at the Andover nursing homes, the Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services conducted an investigation and issued an inspection report April 21.

It said the care centers were not following the infection control practices recommended by it and the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, the class action lawsuit claims.

Specifically, the Andover nursing homes were not immediately isolating symptomatic residents and staff were not properly using personal protective equipment when treating and caring for residents who tested positive for COVID-19 or were suspected of having it, the class action says.

Andover I and II had been warned in the past they were not meeting safety standards, according to the class action lawsuit filed by Roberts.

Since 2015, the Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services inspected Andover I 12 times, citing it for 24 violations, and inspected Andover II 27 times, citing it for 48 violations, the class action alleges.

“Among the many issues cited, one of the consistent findings was that the facilities had continuously failed to meet the requisite safety and sanitary standards needed to protect against the spread of infection and communicable disease,” the class action lawsuit says. Andover II was directed “at least five times between 2015 and 2020” to put in place “adequate infection prevention and control programs.”

The nursing homes failed to do so, Roberts’ COVID-19 deaths class action lawsuit claims.

As a result, residents and their families were deceived, having been told the nursing homes were high-quality and “regulatory compliant” long-term healthcare facilities.

Andover was able to charge a premium rate based on those assurances, a premium the Roberts family would not have paid had they known about the safety risks, according to the plaintiff.

At least 94 COVID-19 deaths of Andover residents have occurred while the nursing homes “failed to take reasonable or adequate precautions to protect their residents and/or patients against the potential spread of COVID-19,” the class action lawsuit says. The families of those residents are all potential Class Members.

Roberts alleges Andover, the management company running it and its owners are guilty of violating federal and state nursing home regulations and the New Jersey Consumer Fraud Act.

Other defendants included in the class action are Altitude Investments and Healthcare Services Group.

Roberts also listed John Does 1-100 and ABC Corporations 1-100 as defendants in the class action lawsuit to represent “licensed health care professionals, employees, agents, administrators, aides, officers, managers, sanitation workers, orderlies, security officers and/or other duly authorized individuals” and any other management companies that “caused, contributed to, or are otherwise liable for,” the deaths of Roberts’ uncle and the other care home patients.

Has your loved one been a resident at the Andover Subacute Rehabilitation Center I or II? Did they contract COVID-19 while there? Tell us about it in the comment section below.

Roberts and the proposed Class Members are represented by Alina Habba of Habba Madaio & Associates LLP and Joseph Lipari of The Sultzer Law Group PC.

The Andover Nursing Homes COVID-19 Deaths Class Action Lawsuit is Estate of Albert C. Roberts By Brian Roberts, et al. v. Andover Subacute Rehabilitation Center, et al., Case No. L-358-20, in the Superior Court of New Jersey, County of Sussex.

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