Brooklyn Assisted Living Facility Sued - The Jewish Voice
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Brooklyn Assisted Living Facility Sued

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According to reports in the New York Daily News, a Park Slope residence for senior citizens has been slapped with a class action lawsuit accusing operators of running an unlicensed assisted living facility. The suit, filed last Wednesday in Brooklyn Federal Court by the nephew of the late “kung fu judge” John Phillips, alleges that Prospect Park Residence “intentionally misrepresents” itself and overcharges residents at a monthly rate as if it is a state-licensed assisted living residence. From May 2007 until his death in February 2008, Phillips lived at the nine-story Prospect Park West facility.

The Reverend Samuel Boykin, the judge’s nephew, previously filed a wrongful death suit in State Supreme Court alleging the facility failed to provide proper care for Phillips who had suffered from dementia. Phillips was known as the “kung fu judge” because of his black belt in martial arts and combative style. “This is a very unfortunate situation that the residents and their families have been taken advantage of by being promised licensed care facilities yet were denied that by this fraudulent scheme,” said lawyer Hunter Shkolnik (CQ) who filed the federal suit. “They do not provide the level of care that a licensed facility would,” he said.

Back in May of this year, the Daily News reported that Phillips’ family had charged Prospect Park Residence with keeping the judge as “a virtual prisoner”, for the eight months that he lived there. The family said that the elderly judge was confined to the building, and was only allowed to leave for a handful of doctor’s appointments. Phillips, a civil court judge for 17 years who was declared incompetent in 2001, was placed at the residence by court-appointed guardians over the objections of relatives who wanted him moved to a friend’s home.

“We can’t believe that the nursing home is still open and still operating without a license,” said Boykin. He said that Phillips’ visitors and access to his medical records was strictly controlled and that he was turned away three times before getting permission to see him. “I would come all the way from Ohio and was not legally allowed to visit my uncle,” he added. The suit also charges the residence’s failure to give Phillips a diabetic menu and said that missed insulin shots contributed to his death. Vinett Robunson, who offered up her Flatbush home to house Phillips but was rebuffed by the courts, said the judge was not even allowed to go outside to sit in front of the building. “He was devastated because he wanted to leave; he wanted to go,” she said. She frequently clashed with the staff over his diet, but never suspected the residence was not licensed to operate as an assisted living facility. “I was appalled when I heard,” she said.

Records that emerged as part of the case show that developer Haysha Deitsch and partners bought the facility in 2006. They only applied for a license in 2009, after Phillips’ death, and a state Health Department spokesman said it has not been granted because the application was incomplete. Officials are working with the facility to complete it. . The executive director of the Prospect Park Residence, David Pomerantz, did not return calls from the media for comment. Besides senior living, the Prospect Park West residence advertises a secure program for patients with memory impairments, which requires a higher level of license. Many residents there are bed-ridden dementia patients, according to advocates who have visited.

Shkolnik also represents former resident Irene Dozier who lived at the Prospect Park Residence from July 2008 until last August and is also mentally incapacitated. Phillips and Dozier paid $5,000 in monthly rent plus additional fees for medical services, according to the suit. The lawyer estimated that more than 1,000 current and past residents of the facility could be eligible to join the class action. The overbilling amount to millions of dollars, Shkolnik charged.

New York’s public health law defines an assisted living residence as “an entity which provides or arranges for housing, on-site monitoring and personal care services and/or home care services … in a home-like setting to five or more adult residents unrelated to the assisted living provider.” The Prospect Park Residence website doesn’t use the term assisted living, but boasts of “the finest in senior living” with pre-war apartments, housekeeping and laundry services, an emergency call system and van service for errands and medical appointments. It also promises a secure floor for residents suffering from dementia and Alzheimer’s disease.

The suit seeks unspecified monetary damages, restitution and punitive damages against the facility.

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