Operators mull bankruptcy as a hedge against lawsuits

A bankruptcy filing by Tennessee-based Orianna Health Systems has put at least nine wrongful death lawsuits against the company’s nursing homes on hold indefinitely.

 “They are stopped in their tracks,” Lee Cope, a Hampton attorney handling two of the cases, told the Anderson (South Carolina) Independent Mail.

The nine cases all involve former residents in upstate South Carolina. Orianna, operated by 4 West Holdings, has a total of 42 nursing homes across seven states. The company filed for bankruptcy in March, citing previous court payouts of $6.5 million as one of the reasons for its financial struggle.

The newspaper reported Orianna plans to sell its South Carolina and Georgia facilities under terms of a restructuring agreement. The remaining 23 could be transferred to its landlord, Omega Healthcare Investors.

Orianna had planned to protect whoever acquires its facilities from its current liabilities. But the Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services earlier this week said that would be against Medicare rules.

And so families in South Carolina wait anxiously to see if and when their cases can proceed.

Attorney Cope represents relatives of a 74-year-old man who died in 2015 after repeatedly falling at a Piedmont nursing home and a 79-year-old woman who died in 2014 after refusing to eat or take medications at a Greenville nursing home. Both locations are managed by Orianna.

Cope told the local newspaper he and other lawyers have hired attorneys in Texas to become party to the company’s bankruptcy proceedings.  But he said there is a strong possibility Orianna “won’t be held accountable.”

Orianna has not returned calls from McKnight’s seeking comment on the bankruptcy or the government’s opposition to parts of the restructuring plan.