Federal Court Rules No Private Right of Action under NHRA

A U.S. district court holds that a nursing home resident does not have a private right of action under the Nursing Home Reform Act to sue the nursing home for impermissible discharge. Schwerdtfeger v. Alden Long Grove Rehabilitation and Health Care Center, Inc. (U.S. Dist. Ct., N.D. Ill., No. 13 C 8316, May 12, 2014).

Theresa Schwerdtfeger, an Illinois Medicaid recipient and nursing home resident, got in a verbal dispute with a nurse and another resident. The nursing home told Ms. Schwerdtfeger she was required to leave the facility and immediately transferred her to a hospital. While Ms. Schwerdtfeger was in the hospital, the nursing home served her with a notice of involuntary discharge (IVD), claiming “the safety of individuals in this facility is endangered.”  Ms. Schwerdtfeger appealed the discharge, and the nursing home eventually withdrew the IVD, but did not allow her to return.  An administrative law judge dismissed the appeal because the IVD had been withdrawn.  

Ms. Schwerdtfeger filed suit in federal court, claiming the nursing home impermissibly discharged her in violation of the Nursing Home Reform Act (NHRA). The nursing home moved to dismiss, arguing the NHRA does not create a private right of action.

The U.S. District Court, Northern District of Illinois, dismisses the claim, holding that there is no private right of action under the NHRA. According to the court, “Congress’s provision of an administrative remedial process for nursing facility residents, and Congress’s decision to reserve that process to the state courts in the context of broad enforcement powers entrusted to the federal and state governments, is a strong indication that Congress did not intend for individual nursing facility residents to have a private right of action under the NHRA.”

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