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"Pleasant Care Corp. Files for Bankruptcy"

La Cañada Valley Sun

By Mary O'Keefe

Pleasant Care Corp., a La Cañada– based company, filed for bankruptcy late last month in the midst of elder abuse and wrongful death allegations related to its operations.

Pleasant Care CEO Emmanuel I. Bernabe owns or has interest in more than 30 nursing homes throughout California. Numerous attempts to contact him for this article were unsuccessful.

The company has a history of lawsuits and fines against a number of its facilities. A year ago the company pleaded no contest to misdemeanor charges of elder abuse and agreed to pay $1.35 million to the state to resolve a suit that alleged negligent care. Two recent lawsuits, both filed this year, claim elder abuse and wrongful death respectively. According to reports, the Department of Health Services inspectors are monitoring Pleasant Care facilities on a daily basis to ensure patients are well cared for.

The bankruptcy may have an impact on exisiting as well as potential litigation.

"Yes, it is going to affect [the lawsuits] and I think that was their intent," said attorney Steve Garcia, who filed a suit on behalf of a 76–year–old woman who died from burn injuries she suffered while in the care of Pleasant Care in Corona. The woman suffered from heart disease as well as Alzheimer’s and dementia. Pleasant Care transferred the woman from an assisted living facility to a convalescent care location, also owned by Pleasant Care.

Convalescent care is more expensive than assisted living. Garcia alleges in the lawsuit that two days after the woman’s fully–reimbursed Medicare expired, transferring payment to Medi–Cal, which pays less, she was transferred back to assisted living. During this time, she set herself on fire.

According to Corona police, the woman’s death was determined to be a suicide.

"I am not willing to agree with that," Garcia said. "I have dealt with Bernabe and his facility many times. I don’t trust them."

Garcia said the bankruptcy filing will draw these cases out in court for years. A liability cap of $250,000 on punitive damages if a person is deceased is one reason for defendents to draw out lawsuits, Garcia said.

"They knew exactly what they were doing [when they filed for bankruptcy]," Garcia said.

Former California Attorney General Bill Lockyer actively pursued Pleasant Care and other nursing home facilities that have violated laws, Garcia said, but he doubts Lockyer’s successor, Jerry Brown, has that same goal.

"I think when someone [commits] criminal acts it is the responsibility of the attorney general to pursue it," Garcia said. "[Brown] should be ashamed of himself."

Now Garcia has hired bankruptcy attorneys to help him continue his case against Pleasant Care.

"Bankruptcy is just another tool in the Bernabe’s arsenal of how to avoid [facing] these suits," Garcia said.