A new Supreme Court ruling may have made it easier for individuals in Alabama and across the U.S. to sue nursing homes that abuse and neglect residents.
Residents have the right to demand justice for violations
In a 7-2 decision, the court affirmed an earlier court ruling that determined when an individual nursing home resident's civil rights are violated, they have a right to sue under the Federal Nursing Home Reform Act - specifically, the section guaranteeing the right to sue for federal civil rights violations.
Rapid health decline signals nursing home abuse
The SCOTUS decision stems from a nursing home neglect and abuse lawsuit in Indiana. A dementia patient, who was otherwise healthy and able to care for himself, had a rapid decline in health after one year of residing in a nursing home, news reports say. His family asserts that Valparaiso Care and Rehabilitation had chemically restrained their loved one. The nursing home alleged that the man had been harassing female residents, and they had been sending him to psychiatric hospitals for treatment. The lawsuit claims that without notifying the resident or his family, the nursing home tried to force the man to permanently move to a dementia facility.
The man's wife demanded justice for her husband. She sued the nursing home as well as its managers, American Senior Communities LLC and Hospital Corporation of Marion County (HCC), arguing that the nursing home had violated her husband's civil rights. HCC unsuccessfully argued that neither the nursing home resident nor his wife had a right to file a civil rights violation lawsuit and that Section 1983 should not apply to all laws.
Nursing home residents' rights
Understanding nursing home residents' civil rights can be key to identifying when a loved one has suffered from nursing home neglect or abuse. Here's what you need to know about nursing home residents' rights guaranteed and protected by the federal nursing home law.
The federal government sets minimum standards for nursing home residents' treatment, dignity, rights, and options. There are exceptions and modifications for every rule, but in general, every nursing home resident in Alabama and across the U.S. has the following civil rights. (Note: This is not a complete list of nursing home residents' civil rights. Residents have many more protections and guarantees enshrined in state and federal law than could be listed here.)
Nursing home residents have the right to:
- Be free from discrimination.
- Be free from abuse and neglect.
- Exercise their U.S. citizen rights.
- Have their representative notified when they have been injured or need to see a doctor due to an accident, transfers, discharges, worsening physical, mental, or emotional status, and significant treatment changes, among many other things.
- Get proper medical care.
- Be treated with respect.
- Be free from restraints.
- To be fully informed about your total health status, medical condition, prescriptions, and over-the-counter drugs, vitamins, and supplements in understandable language.
- Have protections against involuntary transfer or discharge.
- Participate in activities.
- Spend time with visitors.
- Form or participate in resident groups.
- Manage your money.
- Get information on services and fees.
- Get proper privacy, property, and living arrangements.
- Make complaints.
In the situation that inspired the Supreme Court case, HHC v. Talevski, it appears that many of the nursing home resident's civil rights may have been violated, including his right to: be free from abuse and neglect, have his representative notified, be treated with respect, and freedom from restraints. Under the law, "nursing homes cannot use any physical restraints (like side rails) or chemical restraints (like drugs) to discipline a resident for the staff's own convenience."
We fight for nursing home abuse and neglect victims
Shuttlesworth Law Firm LLC supports actions and outcomes that help Alabama nursing home neglect and abuse victims and their families get the justice they deserve. The Supreme Court's latest decision affirms that loved ones are entitled to the opportunity to hold negligent nursing homes accountable when residents' civil rights have been violated.
For over 30 years, Attorney Perry Shuttlesworth and his dedicated legal team have been fighting for nursing home abuse and neglect victims and their families. Our law firm's guidance is compassionate, and our legal tactics are aggressive. We know what it takes to hold negligent nursing facilities accountable in Alabama.
If you suspect your loved one was harmed or died due to nursing home negligence, contact us for a free and confidential case evaluation. We are here to help you find your way forward.