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California Court of Appeals Reinstates Nursing Home Lawsuit

A California appeals court recently ruled in favor of reinstating a lawsuit filed by several California nursing home residents against the operators of the facilities they live in.


The lawsuit, which alleges that the nursing home operators violated California nursing-staff regulations, was previously dismissed by the state Superior Court. The Superior Court ruled that only state regulators, not the operators themselves, could enforce state nursing home staff regulations.

However, the ruling by the First District Court of Appeal in San Francisco on August 17, 2012, overturns the Superior Court decision and allows the lawsuit to continue. The appellate court said in its written decision that California law authorizes nursing home residents to take legal action on their own behalf when their rights are violated, including the right to live in an adequately staffed facility.

The plaintiffs in the lawsuit are a group of nursing home residents who live in facilities operated by Covenant Care, which owns 16 nursing homes in California. The residents claim that Covenant Care failed to enforce state nurse-staffing standards at least 35 percent of the time over a period of four years beginning in December 2006. State regulations require that skilled-nursing homes must provide each resident with 3.2 hours of nursing care each day.


If the residents succeed in proving their allegations against Covenant Care, state law entitles each individual to damages of up to $500 per violation of his or her rights. However, an attorney for the group told the San Francisco Gate that their primary objective is to obtain a court order requiring Covenant Care to comply with the state’s nurse-staffing regulations.

Patricia McGinnis, the executive director of California Advocates for Nursing Home Reform, said the appellate court’s decision to reinstate the lawsuit is important because it gives nursing home patients the ability to stand up for their own rights at a time when oversight by state agencies has been lacking, the San Francisco Gate reported. McGinnis explained that without adequate enforcement by the state, lawsuits are the only method available to nursing home residents to ensure that their rights are protected.


Residents of nursing homes and other long-term care facilities in California who believe their right to adequate care has been violated should speak with an attorney experienced in representing victims of nursing home negligence.

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