Delores Brown died nearly three years ago, after suffering a fall in a nursing home. The Illinois Department of Public Health later determined the facility was fault. But holding anyone accountable has been a challenge, WGN Investigates has found.

“I’m very angry,” said Delores’ daughter, Chereese Brown. “Because you trust the facility to take care of your mom.”

Last year, Chereese Brown filed a lawsuit in Cook County Circuit Court claiming the facility “failed to protect” her mother and “properly train” its staff.

But here’s where it becomes challenging.

After Delores Brown died, the facility was sold and the former owners claim they have no money or insurance to settle the family’s claim, said Steven Levin, Chereese Brown’s attorney.

“The difficulty in explaining this to families is immense,” he said. “The system is meaningless if they can just walk away.” 

Levin said Chereese Brown is not alone.

Lori Levin’s mother died in 2022 after suffering a skull fracture while being transferred from her bed at a north suburban facility.

“It’s obviously very upsetting,” said Lori Levin, no relation to her attorney. “She was the second of three people to be dropped at that facility that month.”

The nursing home in Lori Levin’s mother’s case has also since been sold, for the fourth time in the last decade, according to records reviewed by WGN Investigates.

And the former owners’ financial situation is unclear, Steve Levin said.

Steve Levin and his partner, Mike Bonamarte, are now calling on Illinois lawmakers to amend the state’s Nursing Home Care Act.

Their proposed changes include blocking owners from transferring a facility license if they can’t prove they’re “financially viable” and able to play claims that occurred on their watch.

“For this to go on – just circumvents the entire intent of the act,” Bonamarte said.

Both lawsuits are still pending. WGN contacted an attorney for two of the named defendants but did not hear back.

A spokeswoman for the Health Care Council of Illinois said many nursing homes have struggled financially since the pandemic. 

“Changes of ownership are sometimes the mechanism of last resort to allow operators who can no longer survive in this difficult operating environment to ensure continuity of care for residents, as opposed to simply closing their doors and leaving families to scramble,” the spokeswoman said in an email. “The Illinois legislature should not make it easier for lawyers to further prey on this industry and instead support policies that close the staffing gap and alleviate the intense fiscal pressures that will drive more facility closings and changes in ownership.”