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Important Win in Supreme Court for Nursing Facility Residents

The Supreme Court today affirmed that residents of public nursing facilities have the right to sue in federal court when their rights are violated. Since the relevant civil rights law applies broadly, the 7-2 decision keeps courthouse doors open not only for nursing facility residents, but also for participants in Medicaid and other federally-funded public benefits programs.

The nursing facility resident in the case, Gorgi Talevski, had sued the nursing facility for being improperly given psychotropic medication and then wrongfully evicted. The issue in front of the Supreme Court was whether these federal rights could be asserted by the resident in federal court, or whether the only remedy under federal law would be left to the government for possible imposition of fines.

In Health and Hospital Corp. of Marion County v. Talevski, the Supreme Court strongly affirmed Mr. Talevski’s ability to assert his rights in federal court. But the impact of the Court’s ruling is much broader. A contrary ruling could have undermined the federal law allowing people to challenge state action generally, and effectively denied court access not only to residents of public nursing facilities, but also to Medicaid participants and other participants in federally-funded programs operated by states. Legal services attorneys and other advocates had feared the worst when the Court accepted this case, but today can breathe a sigh of relief with the Court’s strong statement in favor of federal court access.

Justice in Aging appeared as friend of the court in the Supreme Court in support of Mr. Talevski in an amicus brief authored by the AARP Foundation.

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