The announcement is a huge one for the residents and their families, who have been fighting Deitsch’s attempts to evict them since May.
Judge Wayne Saitta of Kings County Supreme Court issued his decision this afternoon, wherein he outlined a multitude of reasons as to why he was issuing the elderly plaintiffs a preliminary injunction, allowing them to remain in their homes.
First and foremost, the Judge outlined his concerns regarding the residents’ health were they to be moved from their current homes.
“Without a preliminary injunction, the plaintiffs, who are in their nineties and suffer from severe disabilities, face the loss of their homes,” the decision reads. “Given their advanced age and infirmities, the disruption and harm that Plaintiffs would suffer if they were removed would be devastating.”
Judge Saitta also reviewed extensively the claim that Deitsch did not set out an appropriate closure plan for the assisted living facility, and that what he did come up with in terms of a plan was given the Department of Health’s (DOH) stamp of approval despite its inadequacies.
According to statutory requirement, the Judge wrote, DOH must “approve and supervise a closure plan that ensures the residents are transferred to facilities that are appropriate for their individual needs and that services be continued during the closure process.”
In March, Deitsch convened the 120 residents of the facility and unceremoniously handed them a 90-day eviction notice. Residents then took Deitsch to court in May after he failed to adequately prepare and assist them in transitioning to new facilities.
Over the last seven months, services have seriously declined at the facility. Former residents were nearly forced into moving out of the facility after having hot water and electricity turned off, activities cancelled, aids fired and basic dietary needs not being met, with some residents being served rotten food.
And, after reviewing Deitsch’s closure plan, Judge Saitta agreed with the plaintiffs and stated that it was not adequate in addressing the individual needs of the facility’s elderly residents.
One of the biggest problems with the plan was its ambiguity. Closure plans must include a timetable and list the procedures that would be used to relocate the residents.
Instead, Deitsch wrote up a closure plan that stated, “All residents will be relocated to appropriate facilities. Staff will find appropriate facilities, and arrange for the relocation of each resident. Every effort will be made to work with the residents and families to find the best facilities.”
No timetable for when residents would be instructed on other options or when they would be moved was included.
Deitsch was similarly vague regarding what measures PPR would take to assess the needs and preferences of the residents for their relocation. Once again, the plan only stated that “an assessment of each resident’s needs will be completed by the case manager or her designee by reviewing and updating the resident’s ISP.”
Judge Saitta found the plan for their individual assessments insufficient.
“The Plaintiffs still in residence are in their nineties, two are holocaust survivors, several suffer from dementia and all have severe infirmities,” his decision reads. “Assessing their individual needs in order to find an appropriate placement is not a mere technicality.”
Regardless of the plan’s ambiguity, Judge Saitta also pointed out that no evidence was ever produced to show that the operator had, in fact, assessed the individual needs of each resident or found them appropriate facilities.
In fact, numerous former residents’ family members sent in letters to the judge throughout the months-long hearing informing him of their loved ones’ deterioration after being moved to inadequate facilities. A number of former residents have died since their relocation.
In the face of the serious accusations of mistreatment of the seniors at PPR and mismanagement of the closure of an assisted living facility, Judge Saitta made the decision to prevent Deitsch from evicting any of the remaining residents at PPR. The decision is a huge relief for the remaining residents, and according to the Judge, will not be an imposition to Deitsch.
“The burden that an injunction would impose on the operator is not onerous,” Judge Saitta’s decision states. “Temporary continued operation of the facility pending determination of this action does not impose an undue hardship on the operator.”
Residents recently discovered that Deitsch was rushing to close the facility because he had sold the building on Jan. 27 of this year for $76.5 million, a full month before he even informed the residents that the facility would be closing.
Now the buyer of the building at 1 Prospect Park West is arguing their contract, due to the fact that eight residents still remain in their apartments.
But the Judge stated that the sale was not enough reason to discontinue the operation of the facility.
“The operator seeks to voluntarily surrender its certificate, not because of any financial difficulty in operating the facility, but in order to sell the building to an entity that will convert the building to unregulated housing,” the decision reads.
Many were elated to hear of the Judge’s decision, including attorney John O’Hara, who has six wrongful death actions pending against the facility in separate court cases, the first of which is scheduled to begin on Jan. 9.
“That was a big hurdle for the seniors to cross,” O’Hara said after the decision was released.
On Monday, a contempt hearing will be held against Deitsch, where residents and their family members will testify against the PPR owner after months of mistreatment. The hearing will be at 10 a.m. with Judge Saitta at Kings County Supreme Court.