Ninth Circuit Rules Nursing Home Residents Can Sue the State Over Refusing to Enforce Readmission Orders

Reversing a district court decision, a U.S. appeals court holds that three California nursing home residents may sue the state after their nursing homes refused to readmit them and the state did not enforce readmission orders. Anderson v. Ghaly (9th Cir., No. 16-16193, July 18, 2019).

Bruce Anderson, John Wilson, and Robert Austin were nursing home residents in California who were transferred to a hospital and then refused readmittance by the nursing home. All three appealed the nursing homes' decision not to readmit them and all three prevailed, but the nursing homes did not readmit them. The residents complained to the state, but the state failed to enforce the readmission orders.

The residents sued the state under 42 U.S.C. § 1983, alleging that the state violated the Federal Nursing Home Reform Amendments (FNHRA). The residents argued that because the state doesn't enforce readmission orders, the state has not provided residents with their right to an administrative procedure that provides for prompt readmission if they are successful. The district court dismissed the complaint, holding that the FNHRA appeals provision is not enforceable under § 1983.

The U.S. Court of Appeals for the Ninth Circuit vacates and remands, holding that § 1983 does provide a remedy for enforcement of the right to an appeal under FNHRA, but that the residents did not allege a violation of the FNHRA appeals provision. According to the court, the "right to an appeal under FNHRA . . . includes within it provision for some state-provided process capable of providing relief." However, the court rules that the resident's "complaint as it currently exists does not allege that the state provides no mechanism whatsoever to enforce each administrative appeal order regarding nursing home transfers and discharges" and remands to allow the residents to amend their complaint.

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