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Supreme Court Preserves Nursing Home Residents’ Right to Sue

En español | We applaud the U.S. Supreme Court for upholding the right of nursing home residents on Medicaid to sue government-run facilities for allegedly violating their rights. 

The Supreme Court decision “is a major victory for nursing facility residents because it reaffirms their ability to enforce their rights under the Federal Nursing Home Reform Act, including their right to be free of illegal chemical restraints and illegal discharges,” AARP Foundation senior attorney Maame Gyamfi said in a statement.  

AARP and AARP Foundation filed an amicus brief in the case last year on behalf of an Indiana nursing home resident living with dementia. The resident’s wife filed a lawsuit in 2019, alleging the nursing home failed to treat her husband’s dementia appropriately, overmedicated him with psychotropic drugs and unlawfully transferred him to different facilities in violation of his federal rights.

A district court dismissed the suit, but an appellate court reversed the decision. The Supreme Court upheld the reversal Thursday in a 7-2 vote.

Health & Hospital Corp., a state-run corporation that owns the facility, claimed residents who depend on federal programs like Medicaid should not be permitted to sue because the arrangement is a contract between the state and the federal government. 

In our brief, we argued that the right to sue is a “matter of life and death for nursing facility residents” who still experience “abuse, neglect and dangerously poor care in many facilities.” 

“Given these dire conditions, residents must be able to enforce their [federal] rights to protect themselves from persistent harm” and hold state-run facilities accountable, we told the court.

Read more about the case, and keep up with AARP Foundation’s legal advocacy work.

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