Recent Supreme Court Decision Establishes The Right of Individuals to Sue A Nursing Home Under Federal Nursing Home Law

The U.S. Supreme Court recently held that the Federal Nursing Home Reform Act (“FNHRA”) confers a private right of action for alleged civil rights violations.  This decision affirmatively establishes that nursing home residents can sue to enforce their rights under the FNHRA, and further concludes that Section 1983 of the Civil Rights Act affords citizens the right to sue for civil rights violations under numerous laws that impose nondiscrimination requirements on recipients of federal funding.  Skilled nursing facilities that are recipients of such federal funding should be aware that their residents can now file suit under FNHRA for any alleged infringement on their rights.    

In Health and Hospital Corporation of Marion County v. Talevski, the Supreme Court held that the family of Gorgi Talevski can sue Valparaiso Care and Rehabilitation, Health and Hospital Corporation of Marion County, and American Senior Communities LLC under the FNHRA for allegedly negligent care.  Mr. Talevski, a dementia patient, moved into the Marion County owned nursing home in 2016 when his family was no longer able to care for him.  Mr. Talevski’s family claimed that the nursing home negligently administered psychotropic drugs to Mr. Talevski and attempted to relocate him to a dementia facility without his family’s consent.

The question presented by this case was whether the Supreme Court would depart from long-standing precedent and hold that third‑party beneficiaries of spending clause legislation did not have a private cause of action under Section 1983 of the Civil Rights Act.  The Court, however, remained consistent with its prior decisions and held that the FNHRA “unambiguously” creates a private cause of action enforceable by Section 1983. 

Justice Ketanji Brown Jackson, writing for the majority, noted that the high court has long considered Section 1983 as allowing individuals to sue for violations of their rights “secured by the Constitution and federal laws” to include all laws.  Further, the Supreme Court emphasized that Section 1983 claims are grounded in tort law rather than contract law.    

Please contact us to help determine the best course of action for your company in light of this new decision.  For more information about these issues and other health care law issues, please contact Gregory M. Garrett, Ferrier R. Stillman, Caylee A. Henderson, or any other member of the health care practice group.

This information has been prepared by Tydings for informational purposes only and does not constitute legal advice.