A senior man is being helped out of a truck by volunteers after being evacuated during Hurricane Ida

Aggrieved residents and families involved in a botched Hurricane Ida evacuation last year have reached a tentative settlement of $12 million to $15 million with embattled nursing home owner Bob Dean and others, plaintiffs’ attorneys confirmed Thursday.

The class action suit will net the 843 participants about $17,000 each — and the opportunity to sue again on medical malpractice grounds.

“Plaintiffs have one more bite at the apple,” said Blair Constant, a plaintiff attorney at a Thursday morning press conference. “This agreement specifically carves out the ability to pursue medical malpractice suits against a third party.

A “Fairness Hearing” will be held on Oct. 3 for the court to determine whether to issue the final approval of the settlement, Constance said.

He confirmed to one reporter that the speed of the settlement was influenced by the ongoing criminal investigation against Dean, who owned the seven facilities whose residents were all emptied into a warehouse he owned as the storm neared the area.

Plaintiffs described conditions as substandard with poor living and sleeping conditions and lack of certain necessities. A handful of evacuees died not long after the mass evacuation.

Nearly a thousand elderly residents were transported to the warehouse in Tangipahoa Parish as Hurricane Ida approached. Dean was charged with eight felony counts of cruelty to persons with infirmities, five felony counts of Medicaid fraud, and two felony counts of obstruction of justice.

Attorney General Jeff Landry has said a joint investigation revealed Dean refused to move his residents out of the warehouse following the hurricane, billed Medicaid for dates his residents were not receiving proper care, and engaged in conduct intended to intimidate or obstruct public health officials and law enforcement.

As McKnight’s earlier reported, plaintiffs in the Dean lawsuit have claimed that during Ida, conditions were unsanitary and that residents slept on mattresses on the floor until the warehouse flooded and the state intervened. 

Constance said the speed at resolving the class action suit pleasantly surprised many plaintiffs and their lawyers.

“Here’s the best part of it: We are breaking records here by doing this in advance of the one-year anniversary in a class action lawsuit,” he said. “Everyone’s clients could not be happier, could not be more thrilled that they’re getting their piece of justice now instead of three to five years from now.

“As excited and thrilled and satisfied as they are with this settlement, everyone is equally hopeful that this will never happen again.”

Earlier this month, the Louisiana Department of Health held a meeting to inform nursing home owners of the state’s new preparedness laws, as well as policies and procedures for communications and establishing proper and safe evacuation sites. The Louisiana Department of Health concluded most of the dozen “unlicensed” shelters that nursing homes from hurricane-prone parishes plan to use as evacuation sites are unfit for that purpose, according to published reports.