A lawsuit filed by a shuttered Aitkin County nursing facility against a state agency has been dismissed.
But it's only a temporary setback, the lawyer for Chappy's Golden Shores said this week.
"Trust me, it's coming back," Jason Steck said in a phone interview.
In a statement, a Minnesota Department of Health spokesman welcomed the ruling.
"Our goal throughout the process has been to protect the safety and well-being of the vulnerable adults involved," said Michael Schommer, communications office director for the health department. "The state has a clear process in statute for hearing appeals from regulated parties, and we agree with the judge's decision."
Theresa Olson, the proprietor of the Hill City, Minn., facility, was joined by two former employees in filing the lawsuit in 2nd District Court in Ramsey County on March 14. It was in response to the agency acting on Feb. 20 to revoke Chappy's operating license. The lawsuit asks that the ruling be overturned and that the three plaintiffs be awarded damages of more than $1 million.
Lawyers for the defendants - state Health Commissioner Jan Malcolm and investigators Darin Hatch and Amy Hyers - made a motion to dismiss the case on April 5, according to court records. Judge Richard H. Kyle Jr. agreed, dismissing the case on April 25.
But the ruling was "without prejudice," Steck said, meaning it could be refiled at a later date. "The judge bounced us ... because we have not, he said, exhausted our administrative remedies."
That refers to Chappy's appeal of the revocation order, a case that is scheduled to be heard in June in St. Paul.
The Health Department's investigation of Chappy's occurred last year and resulted in investigators closing the facility, removing all 37 clients and temporarily suspending its license on Dec. 6.
Hatch's investigative report detailed maltreatment of 10 different clients, including physical assault and sexual misconduct. A subsequent health department investigation by Earl F. Bakke found maltreatment in the care of a client who fractured her hip on the day Chappy's was ordered closed.
The findings tied the death of one client, Steven G. Nelson, to a severe beating at the facility. Steck and Theresa Olson have denied that Nelson was mistreated and have said his death had nothing to do with his care at Chappy's.
The health department and Steck have offered differing versions of an interview with a physician who, according to the agency, said Nelson's death potentially could have been related to a beating. The health department rejected a data request from the News Tribune for records related to the case, including a recording of the interview with the doctor.
The lawsuit filed by Steck, an attorney from Edina, Minn., named former employees Monika Olson and Lisa Anderson as plaintiffs along with Theresa Olson.
It doesn't appear that criminal charges have been filed in relation to the Chappy's investigation. Aitkin County Attorney Jim Ratz hasn't returned repeated phone calls about the matter, but none of the plaintiffs in the civil case appear as defendants in criminal cases, according to state court records.