Supreme Court Will Decide if It Was Legal for a Family to Sue a Nursing Home for Alleged Improper Care

Though the case started small, it has gained national attention and more than a dozen states have submitted an amicus brief in support of the Health and Hospital Corporation that operates 78 nursing facilities across Indiana.

The Supreme Court will hear a case tomorrow that could decide the fate of millions of people with loved ones in a nursing home. 

The case, Health and Hospital Corp. of Marion County v. Talevski, began when the family of a man whose health deteriorated while in a nursing home in Indiana sued the nursing home claiming it violated the elderly man’s rights. The case begs the question of whether private citizens should be able to file a federal civil rights claim against nursing homes that receive federal grant funding. 

Though the case started small, it has gained national attention and more than a dozen states submitted an amicus brief in support of HHC. They include Indiana, Alaska, Arkansas, Idaho, Kansas, Kentucky, Louisiana, Montana, Nebraska, New Hampshire and Texas, among others. Those states said individuals who receive benefits from programs that receive federal funding should not be allowed to bring lawsuits against states, saying it’s up to federal agencies, not states, to police compliance. That includes Medicare and Medicaid programs among many others.  

“Private rights of action burden states with costly litigation even when they prevail and, when they lose, with judgments and plaintiffs’ attorneys fees,” the states said in an amicus brief.

Gorgi Talevski was a patient at Valparaiso Care and Rehabilitation, a state-run nursing facility in Indiana operated by HHC. The company operates 78 skilled nursing facilities, five assisted living communities and 340 garden homes across Indiana. 

His wife, Ivanka Talevski, filed the lawsuit in 2019, alleging that Valparaiso used psychotropic medications as unnecessary chemical restraint, and improperly discharged and transferred him. She accused the facility of violating the Federal Nursing Home Reform Act (FNHRA). 

The district court dismissed the case. On appeal, the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Seventh Circuit reversed the decision and then HHC appealed to the U.S. Supreme Court. 

The Bazelon Center for Mental Health Law, which advocates for the civil rights, full inclusion and equality of adults and children with mental disabilities, issued a news release asking individuals to advocate for the case to be withdrawn from the Supreme Court docket. The center said if HHC wins, it “could strip the ability to individually enforce civil rights and access to federal safety net programs.”

HHC did not immediately respond to a request for comment.

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