State officials receive immunity for SNF civil rights lawsuit

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Ohio Department of Health officials have received immunity from a federal civil rights lawsuit that was filed in response to a skilled nursing facility license revocation, according to court documents filed last week.

Jennie Ingram Calloway, an African-American women who owns and operates Bon-Ing, a nursing home in Gahanna, OH, was seeking $2.65 million in damages from the Ohio Department of Health. Calloway states in court documents she believed her facility was held to a higher standard than other facilities due to her race.

She alleged that state regulators misrepresented facts and exaggerated the extent of the facility concerns through citations issued during inspections. The citations were issued from March 2014 to September 2014.

Calloway also said she was given less time to correct these mistakes than other facilities operated by white operators.

After the 2014 citations, the health department revoked the operator license and eligibility for Medicaid and Medicare reimbursements for Bon-In. The revocation process was initiated on July 30, 2014. The loss of the operating license meant that the facility could not be sold after it was eventually closed due to reimbursement losses.

Ohio Department of Health's Interim Director Lance Himes and his successor Richard Hodges ran the ODH during the time the alleged offenses took place. They have quasi-judicial and quasi-prosecutorial immunity granted by a United States' District Court judge because the license revocation was within their authority. They had this authority because it was prosecutorial or adjudicatory.