Louisiana nursing home magnet Bob Dean Jr. enjoyed a life of wealth and luxury, counting properties from Oregon to Maine, ranches, a herd of cattle and a slew of high-end classic cars to his name.
But little of it was actually in Dean’s name. And most all of it was encumbered by hefty loans backed by the steady churn of elderly and disabled patients who flowed through Dean’s seven south Louisiana nursing homes.
Dean’s botched evacuation of 843 patients for Hurricane Ida, followed by a state shutdown of all seven homes and their seizure by lenders, has left him broke, according to records presented over a two-day court hearing in Jefferson Parish.
Dean is on the hook for $40 million in personal guarantees on loans for three of the nursing homes and other property.
The result, according to attorneys pushing approval of an all-or-nothing class-action settlement, is there is little chance that Dean’s former residents or their survivors can make Dean pay, beyond about $12.5 million total from insurance.
District Judge Michael Mentz said he would rule by Monday over whether to approve a settlement that would be limited to those funds.
More than a dozen residents died in the evacuation’s aftermath, though coroners have classified only five of those deaths as “storm-related.” Records show Dean, who wasn’t there, ignored staff pleas for help and browbeat state health inspectors who were trying to intervene.
Mentz appeared unpersuaded by evidence presented by Matthew Hemmer, an attorney for the Morris Bart law firm, which is opposing the settlement on behalf of scores of survivors and family members.
Hemmer came armed with an expert’s evaluation showing that some of Dean’s properties were worth more than the loans on them, while suggesting that Dean still was hiding assets and other insurance money that survivors could tap.
“I wish I knew where everything is hidden, but we’re not convinced there is not more,” he said.
Hemmer argued that attorneys leading the settlement push were ramming it through without a full accounting of Dean’s assets, potentially shortchanging the plaintiffs.
But testimony from experts hired by those attorneys poked holes in the arguments that Dean is solvent or that the patients suing over the evacuation could claim his assets, which are held under LLC’s, even if he were.
They pointed to evidence that several of Dean’s defunct nursing homes were severely damaged from the storm, casting doubt on estimates that sales of properties along with various insurance funds could double the proposed settlement amount.
Now 69, diagnosed with dementia and under a court-ordered guardianship, Dean was nowhere around this week as lawyers picked through his financial rubble. His wife, Karen Dean, has been named his guardian.
Susan Brown, a certified public accountant hired by the class counsel, said she found “no positive equity” in the nursing homes and Dean’s estimated total debt at $73 million.
Dean’s homes are “not viable entities…They’re dead,” she said. “His cars have been taken. The cows are gone. There’s nothing.”
The debt, and the potential loss to those seeking claims against Dean, grows by some $12,500 a day, Brown testified.
Dean’s attorney, H. Minor Pipes, also when to throw cold water on Bart’s opposition to the settlement, arguing that the survivors could not easily get to any of Dean’s assets unrelated to the nursing homes, if there are any.
“You’ve got multi-state property issues, huge mortgage issues, other creditors out there who have every piece of property that relates to these entities that have been sued,” Pipes said.
Waiting, he argued, “assumes we’re going to fix that someday and we’re going to end up with this huge pot of money.”
Attorney Rob Couhig, co-class counsel, argued that waiting on the chance that Dean has more assets risks a further drain on available funds for survivors or their families.
“We can’t bring back those five days, but we can make it a little bit better for the families and those who have survived,” Couhig said. “These people are dying. They’re old. Everything (Hemmer) has talked about is, maybe there might be some money one day.”
Attorneys estimate that more than 100 of Dean’s evacuated patients have died since the evacuation 14 months ago.
Just how much individual plaintiffs would receive under the proposed settlement will depend on a special master who will sort out their claims. It figures to average well under $10,000 per patient after attorneys fees and costs.
Janice Verdin, a licensed nurse who worked for Dean at South Lafourche Nursing and Rehab, attended the two-day hearing. She said she wasn’t surprised to hear the details of Dean’s collapsed empire.
Verdin evacuated to the Independence warehouse with her intellectually disabled aunt, Marie Roussel, who later died.
“He ran his businesses cheap,” said Verdin. “I’m not surprised that he’s broke, but I don’t care about the money. We could start to have some closure.”
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