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Federal Court Opens Door to Civil Rights Suits in Nursing Home Cases

An elderly woman in Pennsylvania entered a nursing home where she received improper care, according to her complaint. She developed pressure sores, became malnourished, developed sepsis and ultimately passed away. The woman’s estate brought suit claiming her civil rights were violated by the care she received.

An elderly woman in Pennsylvania entered a nursing home where she received improper care,  according to her complaint.  She developed pressure sores, became malnourished, developed sepsis and ultimately passed away.  The woman’s estate brought suit claiming her civil rights were violated by the care she received.

A federal circuit court in Pennsylvania agreed, and sent the claim back to the trial court.  The nursing home was run by Allegheny county.  The county claimed that there was no basis to bring a civil rights action.  At issue in the case was the Federal Nursing Home Reform Amendments.  (FNHRA)  The estate claimed that the rules set out in the FNHRA created a civil rights claim.

The federal appeals court agreed.  It held that the statute  created specific rights.  These rights include a requirement that the nursing home must care for its residents in such a manner and in such an environment as will promote maintenance or enhancement of the quality of life of each resident.  The statute also articulated that nursing home residents have the right to be free from physical or mental abuse, corporal punishment,  and physical or chemical restraints used for the purpose of punishment.

The impact of this decision remains to be seen, and it only applies to nursing homes that are run by a local, county or state agency. 

For the full text ofthe decision, click on the link below:

http://www.dsl.psu.edu/clinic/elderlaw/Third_Circuits_Opinion_in_Grammer_v%20_Kane_June_30_2009.pdf

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