California State Senate Advances AG-Sponsored Bill to Strengthen the Enforcement Rights of Skilled Nursing Facility Residents
OAKLAND – The California State Senate today approved Assembly Bill 849 (AB 849), a bill authored by Assembly Majority Leader Eloise Gómez Reyes and sponsored by Attorney General Rob Bonta. AB 849 will provide residents of skilled nursing facilities and intermediate care facilities with stronger enforcement rights when pursuing legal action for violations under California’s Health and Safety Code. Nursing home residents remain one of our most vulnerable populations and deserve the utmost protection under the law. If signed into law, AB 849 will promote fairness in nursing home enforcement actions throughout the state by clarifying that up to $500 in damages can be awarded per violation of residents’ rights, rather than in total.
“The California Department of Justice is committed to protecting our most vulnerable Californians, whether they live at home, or in skilled nursing facilities. Our office can’t do it alone – we rely on the public and our partners to bring forth actions that help keep everyone safe,” said Attorney General Rob Bonta. “As COVID-19 continues to impact nursing homes and intermediate care facilities throughout the state, it is more important than ever to pass legislation that will ensure the safety of our residents. AB 849 strengthens patients’ rights, and holds facilities accountable for harming our senior citizens and people with disabilities.”
“The COVID-19 pandemic severely impacted our seniors, and for those living in senior care facilities the burden was magnified as they were separated from family and friends. While these safety protocols were necessary, they created opportunities for abuse and neglect,” said Assembly Majority Leader Gomez Reyes. “Now more than ever, our seniors need to know that California will protect their rights and well-being under the law. AB 849 will ensure that those who harm our seniors are held accountable and that such accountability will serve as a deterrent to others.
California’s Health and Safety code section 1430(b) grants current or former nursing home residents the right to bring a civil action against a skilled nursing or intermediate care facility that violates any specified rights as set forth in the Patients’ Bill of Rights, or any other right provided for by federal or state law or regulation. The law also requires facilities to pay residents up to $500 for violations of their rights. Recently, the California Supreme Court ruled in Jarman v. HCR ManorCare, Inc. that current law caps recovery at $500 per action filed rather than per rights violation. In this case, a resident had their rights violated 382 times by a facility and was only awarded $500 in total damages due to the Court’s interpretation of the law.
If passed, AB 849 will:
- Safeguard seniors’ rights by clarifying that up to $500 in damages can be awarded per violation of rights, rather than in total. The provisions of this bill will apply to violations that occur from March 2021 forward; and
- Ensure that damages are proportionate to the severity of violations by requiring courts to take into account a consistent set of criteria when assessing damages and hold those who harm our seniors accountable, so that such action will serve as a deterrent to others.
The text of AB 849 is available here.