Court: Federal Nursing Home Act doesn't create private rights

Court: FNHRA rights violation claim doesn't hold up
Court: FNHRA rights violation claim doesn't hold up

The family of a nursing home resident who died of injuries sustained in a fall can't invoke the Federal Nursing Home Reform Act when seeking damages, a court has ruled.

Plaintiff Joanne Fiers' claim came after the death of her brother, Richard Bendel, while he was a resident at Lakeview Health Center in West Salem, WI. Bendel, who suffered from severe dementia and was a known elopement risk, allegedly left the facility unattended, fell and suffered injuries that led to his death in February 2014.

In addition to seeking negligence and punitive damages for pain, Fiers alleged that Lakeview violated Bendel's resident rights as detailed in the Section 1983 of the Federal Nursing Home Reform Act.

The U.S. District Court for the Western District of Wisconsin ruled that Section 1983 of the FNHRA didn't create private, enforceable rights for residents, and that Fiers' complaint didn't identify any specific rights that Lakeview violated. In order to allege a deprivation of rights under the FNHRA, Fiers was required to show that FNHRA was meant to benefit residents in a way that wasn't “vague and amorphous,” the court ruled.

Section 1983 of the act, the court continued, was written to describe what a nursing home has to do to receive government funding, not what rights it is required to provide residents.  The court granted Lakeview's motion to dismiss Fiers' FNHRA complaint.