Civil Rights Violations in Nursing Homes are Now Recognized Under 42 U.S.C. § 1983


            According to a recent article posted on, the estate of Melvinteen Daniels brought a suit against the nursing home, The Kane Center in Allegheny County, Pa., for Mrs. Daniels fatal case of sepsis caused by neglect, malnourishment and bed sores.  The lawsuit brought on Mrs. Daniels behalf had the cause of action for violating her civil rights by breaching a duty to ensure quality care under the Federal Nursing Home Reform Amendments (FNHRA).  The 3rd U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals ruled that residents of county-run nursing homes could bring lawsuits for civil rights violations under FNHRA section 1983, which challenges the quality of the resident’s treatment. 


Prior to FNHRA being passed in 1987, there were only two sanctions against nursing homes for noncompliance. One sanction was the secretary of Health and Human Services or the states themselves could decertify the facility and terminate the nursing home’s eligibility to receive Medicaid reimbursements.  The other sanction was if noncompliance was not an immediate and serious threat to the residents’ health and safety, the secretary or the states could deny payment for new admissions for up to 11 months.  If the government did not catch and enforce the sanctioned actions, there was not much deterrence for Nursing Facilities and protection for the elderly.  Private lawsuits became possible under FNHRA, and in addition to sanctions, nursing facilities are held accountable and deterred from abusing and neglecting their residents.  As courts breathe new interpretations in FNHRA, lawyers looking to protect the elderly have more ammunition to hold nursing facilities accountable for their abuse and neglect of residents.


            Now, victims (or their families) of elder abuse and neglect from county-run nursing facilities can bring a new cause of action which alleges violations of the victim’s civil rights.  The violation lies in the fact that “nursing homes are required to care for residents in a manner promoting quality of life, provide services and activities to maintain the highest practicable physical, mental and psychosocial well-being of residents, and conduct comprehensive assessments of their functional abilities.”  Abuse and neglect can now be treated as a violation of civil rights, more causes of actions can be brought to help lawsuits to hold nursing homes accountable.  Also, hopefully the fear of more causes of action and increased damages exposure will deter nursing facilities from abusing or neglecting their elderly residents. 


The York Law Firm believes the new cause of action for violations of civil rights is a positive step in helping regulate the Nursing Home Industry.  Since one of our specializations is Nursing Home Abuse and Neglect, the new ruling allows our firm to expand our work in this field of law.  We look forward to applying this new ruling to our cases involving county-run Nursing Homes and Assisted Living facilities who have neglected and abused residents. 



York Law Corporation

Sacramento, California