Citadel parent companies seek to settle lawsuit outside of court

Published 12:00 am Friday, May 29, 2020

By Carl Blankenship

SALISBURY — A complaint filed Tuesday by defendants named in an ongoing lawsuit against a Salisbury nursing home seeks to compel arbitration and stop court proceedings in North Carolina.

That nursing home, the Citadel of Salisbury, is the site of the largest local COVID-19 update, with 157 cases, including staff who live outside of the county, and 20 deaths. Those filing the complaint include Accordius Health and its parent company, The Portopiccolo Group, which is headquartered outside of North Carolina.

The complaint cites language in documents previously signed by the resident or their power of attorney to voluntarily waive the right to a trial by judge or jury. The complaint also cites the Federal Arbitration Act, claiming the act “mandates arbitration of claims that are subject to a written arbitration agreement that affect interstate commerce.” Arbitration is a way to resolve disputes like lawsuits outside of court.

Salisbury-based Wallace and Graham, one of the two two firms behind the original suit against the Citadel, released a statement denouncing the attempt to force arbitration, saying it is an attempt to prevent residents at the facility from having their day in court.

“The company seeks to keep the proceedings confidential and to keep information hidden from the public,” says Wallace and Graham’s statement. “The company further seeks to keep the lawsuit out of the state court or in the county where the facility is located, where loved ones and elders are sick and dying even today.”

Accordius Health did not immediately respond to a request for comment.

The original suit filed by the Wallace and Graham and Guggenheim Law offices claims violations of rights for care home residents in North Carolina’s Adult Care Home Bill of Rights and did not seek any monetary damages from the company.

The suit, which includes more than a dozen sworn affidavits, alleges attempts to cover up the outbreak in the facility from residents and family members, failure to use proper protective equipment, poor conditions and infection control measures, delayed testing for the infection and failure to inform loved ones when their family members were seriously ill.

The suit was a follow-up to another which was put on hold by Wallace and Graham after the plaintiff, who was seriously ill due to the COVID-19, died. That suit alleged the resident was moved from her private room to a hall with other residents who were infected with COVID-19 when she had a urinary tract infection, and subsequently contracted the virus.

About Carl Blankenship

Carl Blankenship has covered education for the Post since December 2019. Before coming to Salisbury he was a staff writer for The Avery Journal-Times in Newland and graduated from Appalachian State University in 2017, where he was editor of The Appalachian.

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