Supreme Court Agrees to Review Major Nursing Home Ruling

05.04.2022 Written by Norris Cunningham, Angela Rinehart

This week, the Supreme Court announced that it would review the Seventh Circuit’s recent ruling in Talevski v. Health and Hospital Corporation, et al. This case has potentially far-reaching implications and could significantly increase the numbers of claims against nursing homes and the cost of such claims. This is not the typical case that the Supreme Court would take up on review.

First, if SCOTUS affirms the Seventh Circuit ruling in this case, this provides a new cause of action, a new avenue for recovery outside of any statutory damage caps, for plaintiffs bringing suit against government-owned nursing homes in the Seventh Circuit, specifically in Indiana where the facility that is party to the lawsuit is located. Notably, this affects governmental or quasi-governmental entities like county hospitals. Since the majority of nursing homes in Indiana are licensed in a similar fashion to the facility that is a party to this suit, the impact would be widespread.

Second, right now, under the Seventh Circuit ruling, a plaintiff can bring a suit under section 1983 for an alleged violation of residents’ rights under the Federal Nursing Home Reform Act (“FNHRA”). Prior to that, the only real option was to file a claim under state law for negligence or medical malpractice.

Parties have attempted to bring this very issue to the Supreme Court previously. Most recently Justices Alito, Gorsuch and Thomas voted to take up a similar case in 2018, which was not successful. As such, it appears that some of the more conservative members of SCOTUS would like to make a clear ruling on this issue.

If the lawsuit is allowed to proceed, meaning that SCOTUS affirms the Seventh Circuit ruling, that will mean essentially that the case will proceed on the merits of the claim in federal court as there will now be a new private right of action for Plaintiff’s to file section 1983 claims in federal court as opposed to bringing negligence/medical malpractice cases in state court. The implication of this is that these lawsuits allow for substantial financial awards, including attorney fees.

If SCOTUS overturns the Seventh Circuit’s ruling, that is a win for the nursing home industry. Given such a ruling, lawsuits alleging over-administration of medications, and various other allegations related to care and treatment, will continue to be brought via negligence, or malpractice actions.

For a reminder on the merits of the case, see our blog post from August 2021 regarding this matter.


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