A federal appeals court recently cited state law in upholding the right of an individual to sue a long-term care provider. 

The U.S. Court of Appeals for the Western District of Kentucky allowed Debra Wilcoxson’s complaint against Golden Gate National Senior Care on behalf of deceased former resident Cornelia Stearman. She resided at Golden Living Center-Green Hill in Greensburg, KY. Golden Gate sought to dismiss the complaint due to a portion of the state’s resident’s rights law that says an action “may be brought by the resident or his guardian.”

The defense argued that Wilcoxson was administratrix of Stearman’s estate, not her guardian.

The court said it must presume Kentucky legislators knew of an existing law that would allow the “personal representative” of a deceased resident to bring claims against a facility. Therefore, it was not necessary to specify that right in the resident’s rights statute.

Wilcoxson’s claims included: negligence, wrongful death and resident rights violations. 

The relatively broad interpretation of the Kentucky law contrasts with a narrower recent ruling regarding federal law.

A District Court in Pennsylvania dismissed Solomon White’s suit against the Charles Morris Nursing and Rehabilitation Center in Pittsburgh on Nov. 7. He alleged the facility made him the financial guarantor of his mother as a precondition of admission, which would be in violation of the Federal Nursing Home Rights Act.

Judge Nora Barry Fisher ruled the FNHRA allows for public officials to enforce oversight and inspections but does not create a “private right of action” to sue nursing homes for violations.

A federal appeals court ruled that individuals can bring lawsuits under the civil rights statute. White filed under the nursing home law.