NJ Nursing Home Sued for Coercing Resident to Sign away Rights

According to an article on NJ.com, a recently filed lawsuit claims that a short-term resident of a New Jersey nursing home was coerced while heavily medicated to sign a power of attorney agreement as part of a financial scheme involving the home and an individual acting as the resident’s attorney-in-fact.

Filed in Monmouth County Superior Court, the complaint alleges that Shmuel “Sam” Stern and Anchor Care & Rehabilitation in Hazlet, “knowingly and intentionally manipulated and took advantage” of 67-year-old Suzanne Araneo, rendering her destitute of her assets so that she qualified for Medicaid and forcing her against her will to become a long-term resident of Anchor Care.

Among the accusations against Anchor Care listed in the complaint are the following allegations of nursing home malpractice:

  • False Imprisonment—As related to nursing home malpractice, false imprisonment relates to unauthorized restriction of a resident’s movement within the facility or preventing him or her from leaving it. False imprisonment by a nursing home can also involve restraining a resident by force, threats, or by impairment through medication.
  • Breach of Contract—In the context of nursing home malpractice, breach of contract occurs when nursing homes fail to provide residents reasonable and proper treatment contractually guaranteed by the facility in the admissions agreement.
  • Violation of Rights of a Nursing Home Resident—The 1987 Nursing Home Reform Act guarantees certain rights of nursing home residents. When a nursing home deprives residents of any of their rights, it’s a violation of federal law and an incident of nursing home malpractice.

According to the article, after a stint in the hospital for treatment of kidney failure and other medical issues, Araneo was admitted to Anchor Care in February 2021 for what she expected to be short-term rehabilitation before being discharged home. Araneo recalled being repeatedly badgered by an Anchor Care employee to spend down her assets—to “destitute herself”—and move to the nursing home full time; Araneo’s response was that her intentions were to finish her rehabilitation and move home. It was also during this period at Anchor Care that Araneo was placed on a range of psychiatric medications that, in combination with her other medications, resulted in dizziness, drowsiness, and confusion. Whether or not this combination of medication was necessary or an incidence of nursing home medication error was not specified in the article.  Medication errors are a type of nursing home abuse that can lead to illness, injury, and even death, unfortunately requiring the intervention of a wrongful death attorney.

The NJ nursing home sued for coercing resident to sign away rights did so while the patient was highly medicated to the point of “fogginess”. The lawsuit states that Araneo was presented with the power of attorney agreement naming Stern as her attorney-in-fact—a time, the complaint says, in which Araneo was not mentally competent enough to sign a legal document. This, the article suggested, calls into question those people who witnessed an incapacitated person signing the agreement, which would have been—as noted in the lawsuit—employees of Anchor Care.

Although she does not recall signing the agreement, Araneo came to understand that something was amiss when she was repeatedly told she could not make decisions for herself without Stern’s permission. It was not until after October, after her brother obtained guardianship, that Araneo was ultimately found competent and was permitted to return to her home. By the time she returned there, said Araneo, all of her possessions were gone and her bank accounts wiped out.

Stern, whose company Future Care Consultants of Brooklyn and Lakewood was also named in the lawsuit, allegedly took Araneo’s money and assets. According to the article, Stern’s company provides nursing homes with accounting and other financial services. Also according to the article, another potential matter could be that of a conflict of interest, if it is proven that a financial relationship existed between Stern and Anchor care; the U.S. Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services has Stern listed as an officer of the nursing home.

Anchor Care has responded to the complaint with its own filing, in which it denied the allegations amounting to nursing home malpractice, including any deviation from care standards or breach of “any duty with respect to any care, treatment or services.”

Protecting Your Loved One’s Rights

As a resident of a Philadelphia/PA or NJ nursing home, your loved one possesses certain rights protected under federal law, including those that respect their dignity, health, and freedom. If you suspect your loved one’s Philadelphia/PA or NJ nursing home has violated his or her rights or subjected him or her to nursing home abuse/neglect, you need to immediately contact a qualified nursing home malpractice or wrongful death attorney.  Brian P. Murphy has years of experience fighting for the health and safety of Philadelphia/PA an NJ nursing home residents. As a nursing home malpractice and wrongful death attorney, Brian P. Murphy is committed to successfully resolving his clients’ cases. Contact nursing home wrongful death attorney Brian Murphy today to discuss your legal options.