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Nursing home accuses rival of defamation

| Tuesday, May 8, 2012, 8:17 a.m.

A Latrobe nursing home filed an 11-count defamation suit Wednesday against a competitor in the nearby borough of Youngstown for allegedly spreading false information that it mistreated its patients and was financially insolvent.

Loyalhanna Health Care Associates, its 18 co-owners and Quest Healthcare Development Inc. operate a nursing home, Loyalhanna Care Center, at 535 McFarland Road, Latrobe.

Loyalhanna's ownership group filed suit against Latrobe Regional Health and Rehabilitation Center and its administrator, Leisa Conklin. Latrobe Regional Health and Rehabilitation Center operates a competing nursing home at 277 E. Main St., Youngstown, formerly called Edgewood Nursing Center.

The ownership group is seeking an unspecified amount in excess of $30,000, and also punitive damages, for two episodes during which it says Conklin and a former administrator knowingly gave false information about the care center.

Loyalhanna officials contend it competes for both residents and employees with Latrobe Regional Health and Rehabilitation Center.

According to the suit, on Jan. 21, 2005, Conklin told an employee, Jennifer Short, that Loyalhanna had a reputation for abusing residents and was in trouble with the state Department of Health, was bankrupt and frequently didn't pay employees. Conklin also is accused of saying Latrobe Regional Health and Rehabilitation Center's owner, Extendicare Health Facilities Inc., of Wisconsin, would soon buy Loyalhanna and fire all its employees.

"Ms. Conklin made the statements with malice and without any reason to believe that the information conveyed had any basis in truth. (The) statements were completely false and were uttered for the sole purpose of depriving Loyalhanna of its good name and reputation. All plaintiffs have been injured economically," according to the suit.

Conklin denied that she made such statements.

"I don't live in the Latrobe area. I don't know the (people) at Loyalhanna. I have no idea what you're talking about," she said.

The suit also states that another, unnamed individual who was working as administrator of Latrobe Regional Health and Rehabilitation Center during July 2004 made defamatory statements about Loyalhanna at that time.

Loyalhanna's attorney, Robert J. Cromer, of Pittsburgh, states in the suit that Latrobe Regional Health and Rehabilitation Center was warned at that time against making any such statements in the future.

Cromer could not be reached for comment.

The case has been assigned to Westmoreland County Judge Gary P. Caruso.

No hearing has been set.

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