Assisted living residents in New Jersey cannot use an existing state law that protects nursing home residents to file suit against providers, a federal court recently ruled.
The case Andreyko v. Sunrise Senior Living Inc. (No. 12-7240) ruled that the New Jersey Nursing Home Responsibilities & Rights Act (NHRRRA) does not cover assisted living communities in the event of alleged neglect and mistreatment resulting in personal-injury.
Plaintiff Helena Andreyko filed a compliant, claiming Sunrise had staff allegedly beaten and neglected her mother, Paulina Andreyko, while she was living at the company’s Edgewater community.
In her complaint, Andreyko asserted that Sunrise was liable for the injuries her mother suffered, regardless of “whether Paulina was the victim of abuse and neglect or whether Sunrise failed to provide the staffing levels necessary to ensure it met its contractual obligations,” according to the January 24 ruling.
In response, Sunrise filed motions to dismiss the breach-of-contract claim as well as the statutory violation claim that the company violated the NHRRRA by failing to provide Andreyko’s mother with a “safe and decent living environment that recognizes her dignity and individuality,” as alleged by Andreyko’s complaint.
Initially, the court had denied the dismissal of the statutory claim because it originally interpreted assisted living facilities as covered by the NHRRRA.
The court, however, held a petition from Sunrise that assisted living facilities are not covered by the NHRRRA in the first place.
“Assisted-living residents are not afforded a cause of action within the Nursing Home Responsibilities & Rights of Residents Act outside of the arbitration context,” the ruling stated.
The court did recognize a need for some demarcation between rights afforded to residents of assisted living communities and those living in nursing homes in New Jersey.
“Despite the NHRRRA’s breadth of definition of nursing home, the statute’s repeated use of the term, coupled with its singular provision for assisted-living facilities with regard to limits on arbitration, suggests a distinction,” stated the court.
Written by Jason Oliva