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Family sues Michigan nursing home over abuse caught on video

When an 89-year-old man started complaining about how he was treated in a nursing home, his son installed a hidden camera into an alarm clock.

LIVONIA, Mich. (AP) — The family of an elderly Lebanese man is suing a Michigan nursing home, alleging a hidden camera captured footage of the abuse and some caretakers directed ethnic slurs toward the man.

Hussein Younes, 89, was seeking care at Autumnwood of Livonia in 2015 after a bowel obstruction surgery. His son, Salim Younes, grew concerned after noticing his father had several bruises, cuts and significant weight loss.

Salim told local NBC affiliate WDIV his father started complaining about mistreatment in the summer of 2015.

"They blamed his injuries on him falling 11 times over a five-month period," said Jonathan Marko, the family’s lawyer.

Salim hid a camera in an alarm clock next to his father’s bed. The family gathered more than 100 clips documenting neglectful behavior over two days, Marko said.

The family removed Hussein from the facility in December 2015.

The lawsuit alleges caretakers physically abused and hurled ethnic slurs at Hussein. The complaint also alleges Hussein was denied water, had his call button taken from him and had his legs run into a wall while in a wheelchair.

The actions may have been racially motivated, Marko said.

"He’s an elderly Lebanese gentleman who was born and grew up in Lebanon," Marko said. "He’s an Arab-American, and because of that, he was targeted as this nursing home and horribly abused."

"What happened to me and my dad and my family is unbearable,” Salim Younes said.

The company conducted an internal investigation and reported the allegations to several government agencies after learning of the complaints in December 2015, but wasn't able to substantiate the allegations at the time, said the company’s attorneys. Autumnwood wasn’t made aware of the video until May 2016.

"The actions depicted in the video are in no way illustrative of the quality care that is provided by the caring staff at Autumnwood on a daily basis," the company said in a statement.

Read the full statement from the nursing home's lawyers below:

Autumnwood of Livonia takes any allegation of abuse and inappropriate care seriously, and exhaustively investigates such claims to ensure the safety of its residents. Autumnwood’s policy is not to comment on residents in their facility to protect their privacy, and to comply with privacy laws and regulations related to health information. However, now that a family of a former resident at Autumnwood of Livonia, the Younes family, who has filed a lawsuit against Autumnwood of Livonia, made the decision to publicly litigate their lawsuit in the press and make public allegations and information related to the care and condition of Mr. Younes, my client now has the right to make a public statement.

In December 2015, the Younes family’s attorney raised concerns to staff of Autumnwood of Livonia about the treatment of Mr. Younes after he had been discharged from the facility. The Younes family’s attorney informed staff that they believed that Mr. Younes had been abused at the facility. Despite requests for additional information, no details were offered. My client immediately conducted an internal investigation, reported the allegations to the state survey agency that regulates nursing homes, and reported the allegations to the local police department consistent with state and federal regulations. My client and the notified governmental agencies, were unable to substantiate the allegations with the information we had at the time.

Although the Younes family had in their possession in December 2015 a video that provided information related to the allegations of abuse, the existence of the video itself was not disclosed to my client until May of 2016, when the video was sent to my client along with a demand for payment of monetary damages. The actions depicted in the video are in no way illustrative of the quality care that is provided by the caring staff at Autumnwood on a daily basis. When Autumnwood received this new information and video, another internal investigation was immediately launched, and the new information provided by the Younes’ attorney, five months after the alleged incident, was turned over by Autumnwood to the state survey agency and law enforcement.

The employees identified from the video have been terminated, and additional training has been provided to all employees. Autumnwood continues to assist the involved state regulatory and law enforcement agencies with their investigations of the former staff and is committed to continuing to provide quality care to all of the residents and families they have the privilege to serve.

As the family has filed a civil complaint and the matter is in litigation, Autumnwood cannot comment any further."

The employees in the video have been fired and other employees are receiving additional training, according to attorneys for Autumnwood.

The civil trial begins in June.