New Jersey Federal Court Ruling Confirms That Nursing Home Residents Rights Statute Cannot Be Used In Assisted Living Settings

A Federal Court Judge in New Jersey recently reversed his earlier ruling and held that the New Jersey Nursing Home Responsibilities and Rights Act does not apply to assisted living facilities. Previously, State Courts have refused to apply the Nursing Home Residents Rights Act to assisted living facilities. In this particular case, Ms. Andreyko alleged that her mother had been beaten and neglected by employees at an assisted living facility in New Jersey. She tried to sue under the Nursing Home Residents Rights Act and the facility argued that it was not applicable since the alleged events took place in an assisted living facility and the law only applies to nursing homes.

Many plaintiffs have tried to expand the limited scope of the Nursing Home Residents Rights Act to assisted living in part because the law provides for favorable remedies, including uncapped punitive damages and shifting attorney’s fees. The judge initially sided with plaintiff’s argument expanding the application of the law to the assisted living setting, but after a reconsideration motion was filed by the facility, he reversed stating the statute was not broad enough to encompass assisted living facilities. Specifically, the state treats the facilities differently with respect to “licensing, standards and regulations” and based on these distinctions, the legislature would have to create its own residents rights law for assisted living.

While assisted living providers may temporarily breathe a sigh of relief, it appears that there is significant support for an assisted living residents rights law. Operators need to pay very close attention to developments in this area and stay in contact with legislators.

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