Settlement possible against Louisiana nursing home owner who evacuated hundreds to warehouse

Ashley White
Lafayette Daily Advertiser

A settlement has been likely reached in a class action lawsuit filed against the owner of seven Louisiana nursing homes that were evacuated to a warehouse during Hurricane Ida, which led to some residents' deaths, according to court documents. 

The lawsuit was filed in September after 843 nursing home residents were taken to an Independence, Louisiana, warehouse where they were subjected to "horrific" conditions. The warehouse was ill-equipped for the number of people inside.

At least 15 people have died either in the warehouse or after its residents were removed by law enforcement and Louisiana Department of Health employees. The seven nursing homes have since been shut down and their licenses were revoked. 

Bob Dean Jr., the owner of the now-defunct nursing home, is the subject of multiple lawsuits and is facing criminal charges in connection with the botched hurricane evacuation. 

The Louisiana Department of Health removed nearly 850 nursing home residents from this warehouse in Independence after nursing home owner Bob Dean transferred people there during Hurricane Ida.

In a class-action lawsuit filed against Dean, attorneys representing Dean filed a letter with the Louisiana Fifth Circuit Court of Appeal that both sides were able to "reach an amicable resolution of this litigation." 

Nursing home resident's story:Family searched for dad two months after nursing home evacuation to warehouse turned deadly

Attorney Robert Couhig said through a discovery process, the attorneys learned the only viable compensation for the residents or their heirs would come from Dean's insurance policies. 

Those policies' coverage would be about $13-15 million, Couhig said. That would equal between about $15,000 to $17,000 per resident or their heir for those evacuated to the warehouse. 

"We looked at the best thing for our clients," Couhig said. "That would be to go forward with the settlement." 

As part of the settlement, Couhig said residents would still be able to file medical malpractice lawsuits and lawsuits against third parties. 

The settlement can't move forward until the Fifth Circuit Court of Appeal rules on two pending appeals. They have been waiting on those decisions since late May. 

Details from lawsuit:As conditions at Louisiana warehouse worsened during Ida, staff made toilets from buckets

In one of the appeals, Dean's attorneys are challenging a lower court's ruling that would allow District Judge Donald "Chick" Foret to continue overseeing the case in Jefferson Parish court. 

Dean's attorneys had argued that Foret should be recused because he was biased against an attorney who was not directly involved in the case, but represented in a car crash lawsuit by one of the plaintiff's attorneys, according to court documents.

Another judge denied that request. Dean's attorneys appealed the decision. The plaintiff's attorneys requested the Fifth Circuit lift the stay, but the court denied the motion instead asking Dean's attorneys to withdraw their appeal. His attorneys advised the court they would not be withdrawing. 

The second appeal is related to an order issued by Foret compelling Dean to testify. 

Contact Ashley White at adwhite@theadvertiser.com or on Twitter @AshleyyDi