Metro nursing home files for bankruptcy after losing $15 million negligence lawsuit

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OKLAHOMA COUNTY, Okla. - A well-known metro nursing home is in a financial hole.

Epworth Villa recently lost a multi-million dollar lawsuit. Now they say they can’t afford to pay what the judge has ordered and stay afloat.

The nursing home is undergoing $65 million worth of construction. Even though they now owe a resident $15 million, they plan to finish construction and conduct business as usual with the help of bankruptcy court.

In May, Virginia Hicks sued Epworth Villa and won. She's a resident with Alzheimer’s disease. She claims a staff member got frustrated with her and broke her wrists.

Staff members told the court, "Virginia was crying, upset, looked scared with purple and black bruises on both wrists that looked like hand prints."

Her family was furious after spending more than one million dollars with the nursing home.

Following the judge’s ruling Epworth Villa released this statement:

“The sensational findings by an Oklahoma County judge who took matters into her own hands and denied us our constitutional right to a jury of our peers are the latest example of our court system going off the rails.  The plaintiff, an elderly lady who, along with her husband, continues to live with us, had minor injuries, which we did not cause.  After we followed our policy of reporting to state authorities and the police, they did not take any action against us.

The judge ignored that evidence, along with the fact that we have new leadership and have continued to receive top ratings and awards in our field.  With the result of potentially enriching the plaintiff’s lawyers, the judge effectively took over our faith-based, non-profit community by awarding $15 million against us that represents 75% of our next year’s operating budget which we had intended to spend on our residents’ wellbeing

We look forward to presenting the full story to the Oklahoma Supreme Court on appeal with the prayerful hope that they will look at all of the facts and reverse the judge’s punitive action that so greatly harms the future of senior health care in Oklahoma”

The victim’s attorney has a hard time believing the nursing home is now in financial ruin.

Kirby Olson says, “There assets are in excess of $150 million they are doing $125 million in construction projects and again they seek the bankruptcy courts protection in this case.”

Advocate Wes Bledsoe says, “Where’s the protection for the residents?”

Bledsoe has poured through the 30 plus pages that documents what happened to Virginia Hicks and the nursing home's financials.

“Where is the money going?” says Bledsoe. “They have the money to spend $65 million on upgrades but they don’t have the money to pay for their wrongdoings?”

The nursing home says renovations aside, that $15 million they now owe a resident is 75% of their operating budget.

Regardless, Bledsoe hopes Epworth Villa is held accountable. He says the penalty is a step in the right direction for Oklahoma.

“I hope this sends a message to every other nursing home operator in this state,” says Bledsoe. “Clean up your act and if you don`t, then you don’t need to be in business.”

Tuesday in an emergency hearing, a federal judge granted Epworth Villa the permission to use money that would usually be restricted after filing for bankruptcy to do things like pay their employees.

Next month that same judge will make a final decision. A decision in the nursing home's favor could mean the Hicks family does not get paid.

We were not able to speak with Epworth Villa representatives on camera but they did release this statement after filing for bankruptcy:

“Oklahoma City faith-based, nonprofit retirement community Epworth Villa, in order to ensure the ongoing care of its residents and to secure the jobs of its employees, today filed for reorganization under Chapter 11.

Related to the Oklahoma United Methodist Church, the community was forced into the filing by a $15 million judgment entered by Oklahoma County District Judge Patricia Parrish in a non-jury trial arising from a minor injury to a resident, from which the resident has fully recovered.

The reorganization filing allows Epworth Villa residents to continue residing in their community with no disruption in services. The employees will keep their jobs serving elders. The construction of new residences for future community members will be completed. Epworth Villa’s well-established relationship with its bondholders, who are financing that construction, will be preserved. Epworth Villa will appeal the improper judgment to the Oklahoma Supreme Court. The trustee for bondholders has agreed to continue funding of the ongoing operations of the community.

Epworth Villa provides continuing care to residents on an independent living, assisted living, long-term nursing and skilled nursing level. The campus in Oklahoma City includes 228 independent living apartments, 36 independent living cottages, 78 assisted living apartments, 40 memory care apartments and an 87-bed, Medicare-certified nursing care center.

“Today’s filing is our most recent step to preserve Epworth Villa’s award-winning quality of life for years to come for our residents, including the plaintiffs who continue to live with us,” said John Harned, president and CEO of Epworth Villa. “Our residents and their families will see no change in service because of today’s filing.”

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