Law Offices of JM Reinan Appealing District of Colorado’s Dismissal of Civil Rights Law Suit Brought Against County Run Nursing Home
The Law Offices of J.M. Reinan, P.C. is appealing to the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Tenth Circuit the dismissal of a lawsuit brought on behalf of a former Bent County Healthcare Center resident, Alice Hawkins.
The lawsuit was brought against Bent County and the Administrator of the Bent County Healthcare Center, and alleged violations of the Federal Nursing Home Reform Act of 1987 (FNHRA).
Alice Hawkins was admitted to Bent County Healthcare Center with a pressure sore she had developed while at Parkview Hospital. The suit alleged that Bent County Healthcare Center improperly admitted Ms. Hawkins and then, once admitted, violated several federal statutory requirements concerning Ms. Hawkins’s care, including requirements governing pressure sore treatment, proper nutrition and hydration, communications with physicians and family members, and facility administration. Ms. Hawkins alleged that as a result of these statutory violations, she was discharged from Bent County Healthcare Center with a serious and life-threatening pressure sore that required surgery and removal of a portion of her tailbone.
Ms. Hawkins claimed that Bent County Healthcare Center violated her federal statutory rights by “failing to satisfy the standards of quality of care and resident rights set forth in 42 U.S.C. §§ 1395i-3 and 1396r.” The suit was brought under the theory that these and other violations of the specific provisions of the FNHRA provided Ms. Hawkins with a private right of action to pursue a civil rights case under 42 U.S.C. § 1983.
Bent County and its Administrator moved to dismiss the case arguing that the FNHRA does not create an enforceable private right of action under 42 U.S.C. § 1983.
The court granted the motion to dismiss stating that, “even when a statute speaks in terms of rights, there is no presumption of enforceability.” The Court further found that “FNHRA provisions focus on what state nursing facilities must do to maintain funding, not on the benefits received by the residents.”
In its ruling, the District Court expressed disagreement with the Third Circuit Court’s decision in Grammar v. John J. Kane Regional Centers-Glenn Hazel, 570 F.3d 520 (3rd Cir. 2009). In Grammar, the Third Circuit held that the FNHRA does create an enforceable private right of action under § 1983.
This issue had not yet been addressed in the District of Colorado, and has not yet been addressed by the Tenth Circuit. Courts in other jurisdictions have held that the FNHRA does create an enforceable private right of action under § 1983.
The Federal Rights Project at the National Senior Citizens Law Center will be filing an amicus brief in support of the Reinan Law Office’s appeal.