Ex-owners of Buffalo nursing home suing County Executive for defamation

Erie County

BUFFALO, N.Y. (WIVB) — A former Buffalo nursing home that was the target of criticism from county and state officials has also generated several lawsuits. A Long Island couple formerly known as “controlling investors” of the Emerald South Nursing and Rehabilitation Center are suing Erie County Executive Mark Poloncarz.

The County Executive accused the owners of being out-of-touch with the Buffalo facility, and recent court documents seem to back him up. In August 2018, Poloncarz said:

“If I had the power to shut it down, I would force the sale of Emerald South from its current deadbeat Downstate owners who neither care about the patients and residents, nor the employees of this facility.”

Poloncarz touched off a firestorm, blasting the owners and backing up employee union complaints after two residents were killed. One feel from a third-floor window, and the other was beaten to death by a fellow patient.

The owners, Judy and Benjamin Landa sued Poloncarz personally for defamation.

“Each resident is entitled to rights that need to be protected under the law, and that simply was just not done by these folks.”

Michael Scinta, Attorney for Former Patients

Mike Scinta is the attorney for the estate of William Strasner, the 87-year-old resident of Emerald South who died trying to climb out of a third-floor window that he had removed at least 10 times.

“By removing the bolts, tying sheets and other materials together to climb out of the facility almost like you are trying to get out of a fire, and had fallen and was injured.”

Michael Scinta, Attorney for Former Patients

Poloncarz claims seemed to be validated during a hearing in October when former owner Judy Landa testified she could not remember the names of the patients who died during her ownership. They were Strasner and Ruth Murray, who was killed by another patient.

Murray’s death gained so much public exposure that Erie County passed Ruthie’s Law, a measure to protect nursing home patients.

“And this is something that should not happen, and hopefully won’t happen in the future.”

Michael Scinta, Attorney for Former Patients

Mike Scinta is suing the former Emerald South owners on behalf of William Strasner’s estate and the estate of Ruth Murray.

For his part, Poloncarz is asking a state judge to dismiss the defamation lawsuit. Last week, the former owners’ attorney filed documents opposing it.

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