ManorCare seeks to remand suit accusing Houston attorney of publishing ‘misleading’ ads

By David Yates | Feb 19, 2015

ManorCare has filed a motion to remand its suit seeking to “enjoin the false and misleading advertisements published against it” by Houston attorney Nick Johnson.

The Ohio-based, ManorCare Health Services - Belden Village filed a complaint for injunctive relief against the Johnson Law Group on Feb. 6 in the Court of Common Pleas for Stark County, Ohio.

On Feb. 17, the defendant attorney from Texas filed a notice of removal in the case, transferring the suit to an Ohio federal court on the grounds of diversity of citizenship.

The following day, ManorCare fired back, filing a motion to remand the case back to state court, arguing Johnson “will be unable to prove by a preponderance of the evidence that subject matter jurisdiction lies within” the federal court.

“Wherefore, defendant will be unable to perfect diversity jurisdiction, and this matter must be remanded,” the motion states.

In it’s complaint, ManorCare alleges that from Jan. 23 through Feb. 3, Johnson ran a series of “false and misleading” advertisements with several Ohio print and online publications targeting its Belden Village facility.

The advertisements claim the Canton nursing home has been “cited” for multiple deficiencies known to cause severe injury, health deterioration, bedsores and even death.

“If you or a loved one was affected by one of these deficiencies, hospitalized, or injured, call Johnson Law Group for a free consultation,” the ad states.

ManorCare maintains the use of the word “cited” refers to routine surveys performed in accordance with the Omnibus Budget Reconciliation Act, which determines whether a nursing home may participate in the Medicare reimbursement program.

“Under OBRA regulations, over 91 percent of nursing homes are found to have ‘deficiencies,’” the suit states.

“Johnson Law Group’s advertisements fails to disclose that only very few of the alleged citations quoted in the advertisement caused any harm to nursing home patients, or that the facility promptly corrected and removed the alleged deficiencies, and is currently in substantial compliance with all OBRA conditions of participation.”

The three-count suit further accuses Johnson of deceptive trade practices, libel and defamation.

“Johnson Law Group’s systematic efforts to induce individuals to bring suit against Belden Village and other skilled nursing facilities include a pattern of ongoing newspaper and online advertisements, which are false, fraudulent, deceptive, and misleading,” the complaint states. “Johnson Law Group is aware of the false and deceptive nature of these advertisements.”

In addition to a permanent injunction, ManorCare is seeking court costs and attorney’s fees.

The company is represented by attorneys Robert Anspach, Randall Engwert and Joseph Center of Anspach Meeks Ellenberger.

Johnson is represented by Thomas Mannion, attorney for the Cleveland law firm Mannion & Gray.

Case No. 5:15-cv-00310

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