N.Y. Health Commissioner Sued Over Decisions Concerning Adult Care Homes

New York’s Commissioner of Health is facing suit from the New Village SP LLC (New Village), Evergreen Court Home for Adults SP LLC (Evergreen), Joseph Schonberger, Steven Schonberger, and Jeffrey Schonberger over perceived violations of due process, unconstitutional impairment of contract, and libel. Both Evergreen and New Village are facilities that operate adult homes and assisted living programs. The complaint, filed on Wednesday in the Rockland County Supreme Court, argues that two decisions made by the defendant, Dr. Howard Zucker, were lacking in evidence, arbitrary, and capricious. The plaintiffs claim they have suffered substantial injury as a result of the issue.

One of the decisions made by Dr. Zucker effectively “suspended the license of a fully operational adult care facility,” causing it to shut down, the complaint said. The decision reportedly came as a result of an inspection conducted a year earlier. After that inspection and prior to the decision to shut down the facility, “New Village had already addressed a majority of the issues in the citation.” Despite many of the issues being resolved, the Department of Health (DOH) allegedly moved the residents of the facility to an unrelated facility, even though the plaintiffs had a brand-new facility that could have been used while they awaited the final inspection from the DOH.

The second controversial determination made by the defendant, the complaint said, was their refusal to permit the plaintiffs to rebuild a facility that had been destroyed by an accidental fire. According to the filing, Dr. Zucker claimed that he made the decision based on “unspecified character deficiencies on the part of the individual plaintiffs.” The plaintiffs countered that in addition to not having the aforementioned deficiencies, “the character of a licensed operator seeking to rebuild a licensed facility that was destroyed by fire is not a legitimate consideration in determining whether to grant a permit to rebuild.”

The plaintiffs contend that both decisions, in addition to lacking evidence, are arbitrary and capricious. Rather than being based on fact, the plaintiffs posit that they were based “on nothing other than raw, uninformed emotion and political will,” adding that they lack any rational basis. They believe that the DOH is attempting to punish the facility for the fire that took place there, despite them maintaining that they did not cause or exacerbate the fire.

The impact of the actions of the DOH on the plaintiffs are described by them as “serious” and “deleterious.” Since their two businesses have been allegedly destroyed, they have suffered millions of dollars in economic damages. The reputational damages suffered by the plaintiffs regarding the negative implications about their character have put their licenses at risk and “put them in a position where they may no longer be able to engage in the business of operating adult care facilities.”

The plaintiffs are requesting that their operating certificate be reinstated, applications be granted, and that they be awarded economic damages in a determinable amount but not less than $50,000,000.

The plaintiffs are represented by Abrams Fensterman.