Sunrise Senior Living faces another neglect and negligence lawsuit (08/20/08 Orange County Register).  Sunrise was ordered to pay $2 million in damages after the death of a resident in May.  The family of Therese Sperry is suing Virginia-based Sunrise Senior Living which owns and operates Villa Valencia Health Care Center.

Sperry spent two weeks in Villa Valencia’s skilled nursing unit in January 2007. She developed avoidable pressure ulcers on her feet that were neglected and went untreated.  The lawsuit alleges negligence by Sunrise Senior Living and says the nursing home failed to provide adequate medical staff for ailing residents – despite five health and safety citations in the last decade by state health regulators.   The most recent violations, from last year, include sexual molestation of a patient during a bath and failure to change a patient’s catheter often enough to prevent infection.

After a brief hospital stay, she was sent to Villa Valencia for a week to gain strength.  Four days after her admission, she had redness on both heels, which later developed into ulcers that spread to her muscle and bone. Sperry’s family immediately transferred to a different nursing home, where she was properly treated for wounds.  She endured debilitating pain until her death.

The suit argues that the facility "carried out a scheme to place ‘profits over people’ … (and) intentionally underfunded and understaffed the facility in order to decrease expenses and increase profits."  Proof of understaffing arose in the trial over the death of Mary Kathleen Adams, who also developed pressure ulcers while at the center in February 2005. She died two months later.  In May, a jury ordered Sunrise to pay $2 million to Adams’ family for negligence and punitive damages.

"Big corporations like Sunrise cut down on costs and staffing at the expense of patients," said Kim Valentine, one of the lawyers representing the Sperry family, and who also represented Adams.  Valentine also said court testimony showed employees were quitting because of the poor quality of care – a finding reflected in a report by the independent California Nursing Home Search. The agency found that nursing staff turnover at Villa Valencia was 82 percent in 2006, much higher than the state average of 67 percent.


33 Thoughts on “Another lawsuit against Sunrise Senior Living

  1. Sunrise Senior Living advertises on the company websites that it offers Hospice Services in their Assisted Living Facilities. In reality, Sunrise facilities such as Assisted Living do not provide the care needed for a dying resident. Hospice typically visits 2-3 times weekly sending a skilled nurse for an hour and a half minimum and an HHA for 1- 2 short visits to provide bathing and personal care. The remainder of the time the dying resident is virtually left unattended. In situations I have personally witnessed a resident was left in a bed saturated with urine and the room flooded with the odor of human waste.The resident was semi comatose and unable to even request help. I have heard the complaints of family members who arrived to find a loved one seated in a wheelchair heavily soiled with feces or urine who was recieving Hospice Services.Often Hospice patients suffer pain at the end of life due to cancer or other terminal diagnoses. Sunrise AL facilities will not administer medications commonly used for pain for terminal illness and their reasoning is the staff passing these medications are not trained to assess pain.In reality the staff passing medications recieve minimal training , however the Sunrise facilites advertise they provide Hospice care. Hospice patients are at the mercy of the caregiver and Sunrise assumes the role of care giver. I am certain these inadequacies are not mentioned at the time a resident is placed in a Sunrise facility for end of life care.The focus of Sunrise is capital gain and profit. If an elderly resident becomes terminally ill the goal is to maintain that profit the resident brings by remaining at Sunrise through death. The focus is the dollar not the humane and compassionate care of the dying.

  2. Here is some information of who is at risk of bedsores that might be useful:

    It is good to know that the Feds have a target list. It will be interesting to see what action they will take other than making the facilities eat the extra cost. It’s time to begin holding administrators personally liable for failing to implement prevention prevention protocols. They are, after all, licensed professionals.

    Here is some information about risk factors that might be helpful:

    In making the assessment, your admitting nurse must determine whether anyone or more of the following risk factors exist:

    age over 60
    spinal cord paralysis
    nervous system disease
    poor circulation
    confined to bed
    altered level of consciousness
    bladder incontinence
    bowel incontinence
    reduced mobility (traction or body cast)

  3. Amen, Jen, Amen.

  4. Hospice care is intended to ASSIST the primary care giver of dying patients. The primary responsibility of care for patients in long term facilities lies with the facility itself.Day-to-day changing of those wearing Depends,etc rests in the care of the facility.

  5. Sunrise assisted living is infamous for overstating their level of care. When needs arise they simply shift the responsiblility to the family, saying “its the families responsiblility”. Being that there is little regulation for assisted living facilities they are able to get away with this.

  6. Paxton on March 16, 2009 at 8:27 am said:

    I had my mother in Sunrise and all she really needed was someone to be a companion. She was pretty healthy, but chose to move here because she had seen ads for Sunrise.

    Within two months, we had to mover her out. She had bruises on her, black eyes, and was quickly going down in health.

    Shes much better now.

  7. Rob ED SRZ on March 18, 2009 at 11:42 am said:

    All they care about is the money. They pay the line staff very little and the people up top get the big bucks and don’t do nothing they talk fancy but they don’t care about the residents or employees. They do hype up the services they offer but once they get you in the door and get that check your screwed. I know I work at one and I’m a department head. They can’t even take care of an employee nor their residents it’s all talk. I see how they lie to the familys she went in peace no acutlly she fell and hit her head and was pushing her pendant and nobody responded and thats how she died.

  8. Our families experience may be in the minority, but my father was placed in the Alzheimer’s/Dementia unit of a Sunrise facility when we were unable to care for him in our home. We were very pleased with the level of care he received, even as he deteriorated. After about six months, he was placed on hospice and Sunrise worked with the hospice providers to ensure his level of care was maintained. He passed away a little more than a year after he first went to Sunrise, and during the last three days of his illness he was completely unresponsive. The caregivers were wonderful to my mother and the rest of the family, as well as my father. They even provided a bed in the next room and kept us fed without charge. When he died, several of the caregivers were with the family in his room and along with the hospice caregivers cleaned him and changed him after death.

    Please remember though, you cannot place a loved one in ANY care center and just walk away. It is the families responsibility to make sure they are being cared for properly and it is a good atmosphere for them. If you don’t like something FIGHT for your family member’s right to good care. Be very involved in the care center community; get to know and show your appreciation to everyone from the housekeepers to the mangers. Strong involvement is the only way you can keep your loved one safe and well-cared for. If you find any problems or feel uncomfortable with their care move them as soon as possible.

  9. Ray Mullman on March 24, 2009 at 12:27 pm said:


    Have you contacted your states’ regulatory agency? Your first hand knowledge is invaluable and whistleblower protections may apply.

  10. Sunrise is well known for treating their residents like crap. Look up some of the complaints all over the Internet. The care managers are untrained and steal from residents. The ED’s arent always licensed, (Deb DeBourno). The company itself is in finacial ruins. Your loved one may be out on the street soon.

    They advertise their number one, but they aren’t. They aren’t even in the top 10.

    Their corporate personal dont care about anything. Allison Guthjertz should be in jail, Mark Ordan should be in a mental institution, and Deb DeBourno should be under arrest.

    They are a joke. A big sorry excuse for an assisted living facility.

  11. Jennifers delight on March 30, 2009 at 2:43 pm said:

    Sunrise is the worst care facility to put anyone in. Their care managers are lazy, untrained idiots and their Executive Directors are not licensed, trained or even educated.

    They steal money out of the rooms, their housekeeping sux and their bills go up continually.”Stay away from Sunrise people.

  12. Pauline on March 31, 2009 at 7:58 am said:

    Agreed 100%. Sunrise Senior Living messed things up about 3 years ago. They got too greedy and began taking things from residents. Less food, less activities, less repairs to their buildings, less care.

    This is a company going down. Dont invest your money here folks. You will suffer a loss

  13. Craig on March 31, 2009 at 7:41 pm said:

    Is Sunrise going under?? I am hearing a lot of stuff saying they are.

    Im not too fond of them so I wouldnt care but just wondering.

    I hear a lot of bad things about them

  14. Connie on April 3, 2009 at 8:31 pm said:

    I used to work for Sunrise…and am not ashamed to say that I HOPE THEY GO DOWN. It is the WORST company that I have ever worked for. They not only cheated their employees in all possible ways, but were way understaffed, so the residents were not attended to appropriately. I witnessed a lot of verbal abuse of residents by the director and associate director of the campus. In my position as Business Manager, I saw it all. After I quit (9 months of that he**hole is more than I could take) I was treated like s*** by the director and associate director. Although they did everything they could to retain me as an employee, I found out that they were trashing me all over town when I finally got smart enough to leave…for a terrific job where employees are treated fairly!

  15. cksunshine on April 3, 2009 at 8:57 pm said:

    Amen to Bob’s and Jennifer’s comments. I used to work on a Sunrise campus in Minnesta as business manager. After 9 long months, I got the heck out of there! They treat their employees like s*** and residents are neglected. I frequently witnessed verbal abuse of residents by the Executive Director and Associate Director. The very underpaid ($6/hr – basically no benefits)and overworked “care managers” were usually kind and patient with the residents. Both the Dept of Labor and Dept of Health would have a heyday at the campus where I was employed.
    Sunrise – do EVERYONE a favor…file bankruptcy and give up the assisted living business.

  16. Delighted Deb on April 7, 2009 at 6:33 pm said:

    Sunrise should go down I agree. Eveeryone associated with the place should lose their jobs and be made to clean the azzes of those residents they abused, and left for dead.

    Their care managers are useless. The executive directors such as the one listed DeBourno and others should be lined up and made to apologize to every resident and employee they screwed.

  17. Delighted Deb on April 7, 2009 at 6:33 pm said:

    Sunrise should go down I agree. Eveeryone associated with the place should lose their jobs and be made to clean the azzes of those residents they abused, and left for dead.

    Their care managers are useless. The executive directors such as the one listed DeBourno and others should be lined up and made to apologize to every resident and employee they screwed.

  18. Andy P on April 15, 2009 at 3:18 pm said:

    I work for Sunrise and will tell you this. All these statements are correct. Sunrise hires people with records for cheap labor. Sunrise says they do a criminal check, but they dont

    They also hire care managers without high school diplomas. That way, they have them by the nutshells.

    They hire people that steal, and take drugs this way, they save on labor and benefit costs.

  19. Mary's Lamb on April 16, 2009 at 11:13 am said:

    I would be very careful if you’re looking to check into a Sunrise Assisted Living building for Assisted Living. There are too many reports of abuse, neglect, theft, racialism, harassment, and other charges against this company. Its not only against residents who live there, but also employees. Thats doesnt sit to well with me. I would rather go to a place thats cheaper, has more and doesnt have sexual and other charges against it. Sorry, I love my family too much to put there in a Sunrise

  20. Patience on April 17, 2009 at 8:10 am said:

    I wworked at Sunrise and knew Debbie DeBourno before she left Sunrise for another company (ran by Sunrise), and then came back to Sunrise when they went under.

    She is a B%^&*! with a capital B. She isn’t a people oriented person, nor is she a resident oriented person and should not be in contact with them.

    I remember one time she totally cursed out a resident’s daughter becuase they were upset about their mothers care.

    No matter what, DeBourno had no right to do such a thing. We are in the care business.

  21. NoName on May 1, 2009 at 7:18 pm said:

    I work at sunrise and I can agree with most of what’s said here. About 80% of the care managers are genuine caring people, but they’re also SERIOUSLY underpaid and untrained.

    Our current ED is near diabolical. She’s never on site and refuses to return messages of family members. She doesn’t give a rat’s about anyone working there…except for maybe the care manager she’s sleeping with…
    In the past 2 months she has cut our kitchen’s hours by nearly a third. Then she wants to know why the kitchen and the food aren’t up to parr.

    About 80% of the care managers are innocent, it’s the management that is seriously curupt. I’d like to see the entire management team replaced.

    Sunrise Principle of service is “F**K the residents, where’s the profit?”

  22. daughter on May 12, 2009 at 10:15 pm said:

    I know of two people in two different facilities that receive wonderful care. I have never experienced one employee’s behavior as described here at all. Each employee knew not only the resident but their daily experience and they knew we were related.
    I know of other situations in other company’s facilities that are bad.
    The key is to be an ongoing presence in your loved-ones life. How can a facility responsible for multiple people be expected to give one-on-one care?
    We hear these same complaints with child-care because unless you hire one individual for one individual, well, there are many other situations going on at once.
    I visited my mother every single day when she was in rehabilitation. I was available to help out and be a part of my mother’s care, which makes all the difference. Rehab and assisted living, nursing homes are not to replace family and friends.
    It is highly inappropriate to slander employers on a website rather than going through proper channels to resolve the situation. Blanket statements and profanity should not be taken seriously either, or deemed credible.

  23. fed up after 2 months on May 20, 2009 at 4:14 am said:

    I work at a Sunrise in Michigan. I was hired in 2 months ago as a care manager. This job is a joke. I find the work rewarding, but management from top to bottom incompetent. I am not paid a fair wage at all, $9/hr. I just learned that one of our new residents has the herpes virus on the hands, and neither the wellness coordinator or assisted living coordinator felt it prudent to make a notation of this in the resident’s chart for almost a week after the resident moved in. I was just recently diagnosed with HIV and feel that this is unacceptable. We all know to use universal precautions, however, knowing that a resident has a communicable disease is crucial in protecting my own health. What if I had contracted the herpes virus from this resident due to management’s negligence, how many more years would that knock off my lifespan? This company is a complete joke, but unfortunately, I’m stuck here for now.

  24. K Roberts on September 26, 2009 at 8:37 am said:

    I just wish Sunrise would be more honest with relatives. Fed up of being ignored and direct questions not answered. The same is happening in the UK – cost cutting. Regret ever recommending the place to friends. Misleading advertising, relatives get enticed with hotel-like facilities but it’s the quality of care and nursing that count.

  25. jane gram on January 12, 2010 at 11:47 pm said:

    My mother passed away about tw0 weeks ago, 12-30-09 at Sunrise Assisted Living- MI. I won’t name the exact facility. She was dropped by a caregiver and she fractured her right kneee, this resulted in confinement to bed. Unfortunately the facility admitted to these unforgiveable errors:

    . 2 person transfer, they only had 1
    . failed to notify family of the fall for 3 days following the incident.
    . pt. did not receieve medication due to refusal, orders in chart said” crush meds” this was not done.

    . Pt. spent Thanksgiving with family, 1 week prior to being dropped 12/1/09. Pt. died 29 days later. Not sure of how to proceed?

  26. Jane:

    Contact Jules Olsman at

    Olsman Mueller Wallace & MacKenzie, PC

    2684 West Eleven Mile Road

    Berkley, MI 48072

    248-591-2300 / 248-591-2304 [fax]

  27. I’m very surprised to see these comments about Sunrise! I’ve never heard anything negative about their level of care before in terms of Florida and Virginia locations.

  28. Really? I’m interested in your experience with those facilities? Do you consult there?

  29. Sunrise is a wonderful facility for residents and families. I work at a Sunrise in California, we have residents on Hospice and yes they are getting quality care. I agree the family does need to be involved. Hospice is about nurturing individuals at the end of life and they need their family with them during every step of the journey.

  30. TrAcy on April 14, 2011 at 2:31 pm said:

    Sunrise is the worst place ever they treat their employees like crap and the mangement are horrible. They are all money hungry. The care givers are amazing but under trained and paid.

  31. TrAcy on April 14, 2011 at 2:36 pm said:

    Sunrise is the worst place ever they treat their employees like crap and the mangement are horrible. They are all money hungry. The care givers are amazing but under trained and paid.

  32. TrAcy on April 14, 2011 at 2:36 pm said:

    Sunrise is the worst place ever they treat their employees like crap and the mangement are horrible. They are all money hungry. The care givers are amazing but under trained and paid.

  33. dawn smith on October 30, 2012 at 2:31 am said:

    I was gonna post what happened to my husband on the construction on one of the “SUNRISE” assisted living facilities in Louisiana, at the age of 37. I’d better check with an attorney before I post.

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