The Supreme Court of the United States has spoken on nursing home resident rights. In a landmark decision, it has affirmed the right of nursing-home residents to sue for violations of their dignity and freedom under federal law. The case was brought by Ivanka Talevski, whose father Gorgi suffered from dementia and was subjected to chemical restraints and forced transfers by his nursing home, Valparaiso Care and Rehabilitation, which was owned by the Health and Hospital Corporation of Marion County and managed by American Senior Communities. Talevski sued all three entities. She claimed they had breached the Federal Nursing Home Reform Act (FNHRA), which was passed in 1987 and signed into law by President Reagan to protect residents from unnecessary restraints and requires advance notice of discharge. She brought claims under Section 1983 of Title 42 of the United States Code (“Section 1983”), which is a statute that allows anyone to sue for deprivation of federal rights and reads in relevant part:
[e]very person who, under color of any statute, ordinance, regulation, custom, or usage, of any State or Territory or the District of Columbia, subjects, or causes to be subjected, any citizen of the United States or other person within the jurisdiction thereof to the deprivation of any rights, privileges, or immunities secured by the Constitution and laws, shall be liable to the party injured in an action at law, suit in equity, or other proper proceeding for redress.
The nursing home argued that Talevski could not maintain Section 1983 claims because the FNHRA was enacted under Congress’s spending power and did not create individual rights.