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NJ Nursing Home Law Does Not Cover Assisted Living Residents, Court Says

The case of Andreyko v. Sunrise Senior Living, Inc. et. al may spur the New Jersey legislature to establish a liability scheme for the state’s assisted living facility residents, since it turns out that they cannot use the “Nursing Home Responsibilities and Rights of Residents” Act in court.

In Andreyko, the Plaintiff alleged that her mother, who was diagnosed with dementia and required ADL assistance, was beaten, mistreated and/or neglected when she resided at an assisted living facility in New Jersey. Within the three counts of the complaint that the Plaintiff brought to the Court, one argued that the Defendants had violated the New Jersey Nursing Home Resident Rights statute by not providing “a safe and decent living environment” for the resident.

The New Jersey “Nursing Home Responsibilities and Rights of Residents” Act was established in 1976 and is meant to serve as protection for nursing home residents in the state. The Act defines a “nursing home” as: “any institution . . . which maintains and operates facilities for extended medical and nursing treatment or care for two or more nonrelated individuals who are . . . infirm . . .” In the Act, “infirm” means that the resident needs assistance with ADLs. The Plaintiff argued that the Defendants failed to provide Ms. Andreyko with her “statutorily mandated nursing home resident’s rights” and that she suffered injuries and damages as a result. It was also noted that the Defendants had breached her rights by failing to provide her with the safe living environment that was laid out under the NHRRRA.

Initially, the District Court judge agreed with the Plaintiff, but the decision was later reversed. The Defendants argued that the NHRRRA was inapplicable to the case since they were categorized as an assisted living facility and not a nursing home. While on the surface the language of the NHRRRA appears to be broad enough to encompass both SNFs and ALFs, the Defendants were able to successfully argue that this was not the case. The judge found that the licensing and regulations of health care facilities falls under Title 26, Chapter 2H, which covers the licensing schemes of both nursing facilities and assisted living, but treats them separately instead of one umbrella set of licensing requirements. In the NHRRRA, the term “assisted living facilities” only appears one time, when it is mentioned along with nursing homes, which the judge found to mean that they were considered separate. Citing previous case law, the judge found:

“The NHRRRA expressly provides an enforcement mechanism only with regard to the rights defined therein, and such rights are expressly afforded to nursing home residents. 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 . . . suggests a distinction.”

To read the decision, click here.

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