A recent ruling on a nursing home resident dumping litigation could help improve the treatment of California nursing home residents according to Law 360. On July 28, 2019, California’s Ninth Circuit court issued a ruling favoring three victims of nursing home dumping.
Resident dumping is the involuntary discharging of a resident, often without warning. According to a U.S. Department of Health and Human Services memo, financial incentives appear to be the basis for many involuntary discharges, often disguised as a behavioral, mental or emotional issue discharge. Most of the victims of involuntary discharge in California are recipients of the California Medicaid program, or Medi-Cal, who bring in less money than people with Medicare or private insurance.
One such victim was the primary plaintiff in the resident dumping litigation: Austin. In May 2015, Austin was hospitalized and denied re-entry into his nursing home. Despite a ruling from the California Department of Health Care Service that his hospitalization was for illegitimate reasons and he should be restored to his nursing home, the nursing home refused to comply and the state of California did not enforce this order.
Years later, Austing and two other plaintiffs began the resident dumping litigation process to regain their old nursing home spots. Much of this resident dumping litigation hinged on a 1987 law known as the Federal Nursing Home Reform Act (FNHRA). Under the FNHRA, residents have the right to hearings for wrongful treatment. The FNHRA established standards of care and outlawed the involuntary discharge of residents unless special circumstances were fulfilled.
In a statement from the Ninth Circuit Court explaining their ruling, the judges state “Congress could not have intended FNHRA to create meaningless show trials that allow nursing homes to persist in improper transfers and discharges.” Therefore, the Ninth Circuit Court granted the complaint of the resident dumping litigation and recognized the rights of the former residents to have the California Department of Health Care Service’s decision enforced.
The opposition in the resident dumping litigation, the California Association of Health Facilities, who represent over 1,000 care facilities, argued against this ruling, stating that nursing homes are required to make complicated decisions that balance the rights and needs of the individual resident, staff, and the resident community wholistically. They also argued that no discharges were made with ulterior motives and that the “narrative” of resident dumping for increased profit was patently false.
Though they succeeded in the resident dumping litigation, the journey of the resident dumping plaintiffs is not over. Now Austin and his fellow plaintiffs must prove that the state’s current enforcement system meets the legal standard for inadequacy.
For more information about the harmful effects of nursing home neglect, visit the National Association of Nursing Home Attorney’s Neglect Page.