Class Action Certification Denied in Nursing Home Case

In Hooker v. The Citidel Salisbury LLC (M.D. N.C. 4/20/2023), Plaintiffs alleged intentional understaffing by the nursing home, alleged they failed to receive services they were entitled to, and sought class action certification. The nursing home opposed the certification. The Court found that the “class action device is “an exception to the usual rule that litigation is conducted by and on behalf of the individual named parties only.” Comcast Corp. v. Behrend, 569 U.S. 27, 33 (2013) (internal quotation marks omitted). Rule 23 “does not set forth a mere pleading standard.” Wal-Mart Stores, Inc. v. Dukes, 564 U.S. 338, 350 (2011). To be certified, a party seeking class certification must “establish by a preponderance of the evidence that the action complies with each part of Rule 23.” Brown v. Nucor Corp., 785 F.3d 895, 931 (4th Cir. 2015) (Agee, J., dissenting) (citing cases). First, a plaintiff must satisfy the four requirements set out in Rule 23(a): “(1) numerosity of parties; (2) commonality of factual and legal issues; (3) typicality of claims and defenses of class representatives; and (4) adequacy of representation.” Gunnells v. Healthplan Services, Inc., 348 F.3d 417, 423 (4th Cir. 2003); see Thorn v. Jefferson-Pilot Life Insurance Co., 445 F.3d 311, 317 (4th Cir. 2006).”

After considering the alleged facts, the Court denied certification of a class action. The Court found that each Plaintiff’s injuries and damages would be unique and certification “would not resolve whether individual Plaintiffs received the qualitative care for which they contracted.” In short, even though the Court acknowledged that plaintiffs presented “a sympathetic case that elderly residents of a skilled nursing facility were subjected to deficient service, contrary to that for which they allegedly contracted,” certification of a class was not appropriate.

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