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The Rise of Nursing Home Litigation: Protecting our Elders


Introduction:

As our population continues to age, the demand for quality nursing home care has never been higher. Unfortunately, along with the growth of the industry, we have witnessed an alarming rise in cases of elder abuse, neglect, and substandard care in nursing homes. This has led to a surge in nursing home litigation, with victims and their families seeking justice for the harm caused to their loved ones. In this article, we will explore the key issues surrounding nursing home litigation and the importance of nursing home experts in these cases. 


Understanding the Federal Nursing Home Reform Act 

One of the central pieces of legislation governing nursing home care in the United States is the Federal Nursing Home Reform Act (FNHRA). Enacted in 1987, the FNHRA sets the standards for nursing homes that receive Medicaid funding. These standards are designed to ensure the health, safety, and dignity of nursing home residents. Until recently, these standards could only be enforced by government agencies. However, a groundbreaking Supreme Court decision has now opened the door for private litigants to bring civil claims against nursing homes for certain violations of the FNHRA. 


The Supreme Court's Decision in Health and Hospital Corp. of Marion County, Indiana v. Talevski:

In the case of Health and Hospital Corp. of Marion County, Indiana v. Talevski, the Supreme Court ruled that private litigants have the right to bring civil claims against nursing homes for violations of specific provisions of the FNHRA. The Court focused on two specific rights granted to nursing home residents under the FNHRA: the right to be free from unnecessary chemical restraints and the right to be discharged or transferred only when certain preconditions are met. 

The Supreme Court's decision affirmed that these provisions of the FNHRA create enforceable rights for nursing home residents, which can be pursued through civil litigation. This landmark ruling has opened the floodgates for potential litigation against nursing homes and has significant implications for the industry. 


Implications of the Supreme Court's Decision 

While the Supreme Court's decision in Talevski specifically addressed the two provisions mentioned above, its broader implications are far-reaching. The Court's analysis of the FNHRA's "rights-creating" language suggests that other provisions of the Act may also be enforceable by private litigants. This opens the possibility for additional lawsuits targeting nursing homes for violations of various rights conferred by the FNHRA. 

As a result, nursing homes now face increased litigation risks and must take proactive steps to ensure compliance with the FNHRA. The potential for civil suits also raises the likelihood of government investigations and enforcement actions, further highlighting the importance of strict adherence to the Act's standards. 

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