Specialized Information for:

Long-Term Care ConsumersFamily MembersAdvocates

News Article

Back to News Listing

Major Supreme Court Victory for Nursing Home Residents' Rights

June 13, 2023

On Thursday, June 8, the United States Supreme Court delivered a victory to nursing home residents residing in state run (publicly owned) Medicaid-funded nursing facilities, by finding that these residents have a private right of action against a nursing home if it violates rights conferred upon residents by the Federal Nursing Home Reform Act of 1987 (FNHRA). The family of Gorgi Talevski brought the lawsuit in federal court after serious issues arose when Mr. Talevski was admitted to an Indiana nursing home, Valparaiso Care and Rehabilitation (VCR). The complaint alleged that the facility illegally sedated Mr. Talevski with a variety of psychotropic drugs and then illegally discharged him from the facility. The federal district court dismissed the complaint, holding that FNHRA did not provide nursing home residents with a private right of action. The Seventh Circuit reversed the district court, and the United States Supreme Court upheld the Seventh Circuit’s decision.

The facts of Mr. Talevski’s case were, unfortunately, all too familiar to nursing home resident advocates.  When Mr. Talevski was admitted to VCR, he could still talk, feed himself, walk, socialize, and recognize his family. However, his condition quickly deteriorated – he began to lose his ability to communicate and could no longer feed himself. Although VCR claimed this was the natural progression of his dementia, outside physicians discovered that VCR was illegally sedating (chemically restraining) Mr. Talevski with six different psychotropic drugs. His medication was then tapered down, and he regained the ability to eat on his own. Ultimately, VCR illegally discharged Mr. Talevski, and refused to readmit him when VCR was found to have violated his discharge rights under FNHRA.

The Supreme Court held that FNHRA explicitly confers certain rights on nursing home residents, including the right to be free from chemical restraints and not to be subject to illegal discharge. In turn, these rights were found enforceable under Section 1983 of the United States Code, which provides citizens with a private right of action when a state deprives them of rights secured by the “Constitutions and laws.”

Consumer Voice joined an amicus curiae, or “friend of the Court,” brief in favor of upholding the right of residents to sue in cases like Mr. Talevski’s. The brief highlighted the inadequate care, poor conditions, and abuse many nursing home residents endure. Too often the federal and state regulatory systems fail nursing home residents, as it did in Mr. Talevski’s case. Providing residents with a private cause of action in instances where the facility is operated by a state allows residents to address poor care directly in the courts.

While the Supreme Court decision is critical for reaffirming that all residents have been conferred explicit rights under the FNHRA, the decision is narrow, and will not apply to residents operating in privately-run facilities. These residents will not have recourse to the courts under Section 1983 of the United States code, because these facilities are not state actors.  

Unfortunately, Mr. Talevski passed away in October 2021. Consumer Voice is grateful for the willingness of Mr. Talevski’s family to stand up for resident rights and for obtaining this important victory in the Supreme Court.

Learn more about residents' rights.

Back to News Listing