The father of a patient, who had traumatic brain injury (TBI) and died in a fire in a Tennessee facility, has filed an $8 million lawsuit against the company that operates the home, 21st Century Living Services, where he died, according to the Tennessean.
The victim, Douglas Johnson, 45, died in a fire in February last year at a 21st Century facility in Gallatin, Tenn. The lawsuit, which was filed in February, alleges that Johnson was left behind in a second-floor bathroom while the rest of the patients were evacuated because of the fire, according to The Tennessean.
Johnson had sustained a TBI in a car accident in 2000, and came to the 21st Century facility in fall 2010, The Tennessean reported. The monthly fee was $5,000 a month.
The lawsuit charges that 21st Century wasn’t licensed by local, state or federal officials, and failed to meet Tennessee state building and fire code regulations, according to The Tennessean. Local officials claimed that they didn’t know the facility was a group home.
But it looks like 21st Century made a shrewd play so it could continue running its facilities without too much muss or fuss. As it turned out, the company was running four homes with a license.
Told to either get licensed or shut down, 21st Century did some lobbying and got a change in state law that will permit it to keep operating while only making minor changes to its homes, The Tennessean reported.
Under state law, critical adult care homes are supposed to have a manager who is licensed as a physician, nurse, or mental health or rehabilitation health profession, according to The Tennessean. But 21st Century didn’t have a resident manager. Instead, it was using three workers who wash had an eight-hour shift as supervisors.
In May last year, 21st Century sought a waiver so it wouldn’t need to have a resident manager on premises. It also wanted to have seven to eight residents in its homes, not five, which is what state law permitted. State health officials rejected 21st Century’s requests, but that didn’t stop the company.
It contacted Rep. Mike McDonald, who drafted legislation that created a new licensing category: “community-based traumatic brain injury adult care homes,” according to The Tennessean. And that legislation was passed as law last year.
The new law permits “traumatic brain injury home operators” to get licenses if staffers who do overnight care are certified by the Academy of Certified Brain Injury Specialists, The Tennessean reported. And such homes can now have up to eight residents, not the five previously mandated by state law.