A public relations firm hired last year by a struggling pandemic-ravaged Sussex County nursing home sues the facility, saying it has yet to receive tens of thousands of dollars in payments .
Mercury Public Affairs, a high-stakes public strategy firm, is seeking more than $ 157,500 from Alliance Healthcare Holdings, which manages Andover Subacute II – in payments for the services they say they have provided to help build the reputation of the institution in difficulty. after police found 17 bodies crammed into ‘makeshift’ mortuary at height of pandemic.
The Delaware-based company with an office in Trenton contracted Alliance CEO Chaim “Mutty” Scheinbaum in April 2020 to provide crisis, reputation and issue management and strategic media relations, according to the lawsuit filed in Sussex County Superior Court.
The public relations firm was hired to work closely with Lowenstein Sandler, a law firm hired by Scheinbaum to provide legal services, and be paid $ 35,000 per month to help a devastated long-term care facility that was quickly criticized for the quality of care, inadequate staff and controversial business practices.
Although a defense attorney is not in court records, Christopher Porrino, who previously served as Scheinbaum’s lawyer on other matters, did not immediately respond when contacted on Tuesday. Scheinbaum did not respond either.
Mercury began providing services on April 17, 2020, just days after police made their surprising discovery and media from the tri-state area flocked to the Mulford Road facility. Mercury says they were hired to continue their services in May on a monthly basis, but as of December 2020, Alliance was behind on payments.
Scheinbaum, the lawsuit says, made partial payments and admitted the debt without objection. The lawsuit makes no mention of Louis Schwartz, who is listed as a part-owner of Andover Subacute II in federal nursing home data.
On June 1, 2021, Scheinbaum agreed to settle the bill of $ 175,000 for all services provided, according to the lawsuit, and promised to pay $ 87,500 in two equal installments. The first payment was made, Mercury said, but Scheinbaum “failed and refused” to make the second payment.
Mercury is asking for $ 157,500 for breach of contract or, as an alternative, the amount owed of $ 87,500 and any relief that the court deems fair.
No more lawsuits, fines
The lawsuit is the latest against the long-term care facility and comes one month after federal appeals court served Andover Subacute operators with major setback after ruling on two COVID-19 lawsuits against them, is expected to proceed in state court.
The owners of the facilities sought to relocate lawsuits brought by certain families of the deceased in a federal court, citing that they were protected under an emergency law which protects them from any legal action.
The ruling is believed to have set a precedent for further such lawsuits against nursing homes.
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A scathing federal health inspection report detailed conditions inside the facility in April 2020 when inspectors determined the non-compliance “had caused or was likely to cause” serious injury or death to residents of the establishment. The Centers for Medicare and Medicaid, a division of the US Department of Health and Human Services, imposed a civil fine of $ 220,235 during a 15-day period in which the facility was tried in ” immediate danger “.
Although the owners remain the same, Andover Subacute I and II changed their names earlier this year: Andover Subacute I was renamed Limecrest Subacute and Rehabilitation Center and Andover Subacute II was renamed Woodland Behavioral and Nursing Center.
But despite the name change and new reporting, there are still 25 positive cases of COVID-19 at the old Andover Subacute II, according to a list of active outbreaks updated Monday by the New Jersey Department of Health. Since the start of 2020, 83 residents of subacute zones I and II have died and more than 270 have tested positive for COVID-19, according to data from the Sussex County Health Division.
Lori Comstock can be reached on Twitter: @LoriComstockNJH, on Facebook: www.Facebook.com/LoriComstockNJH or by phone: 973-383-1194.