(2012) The National Senior Citizens Law Center, along with AARP, has submitted a friend of the court appellate brief in the California Court of Appeals supporting the right of nursing home residents to enforce California’s minimum nursing home staffing levels. The underlying lawsuit (Shuts v Covenant Holdco LLC)requests (among other things) that the court order the defendant nursing home chain to maintain adequate staffing levels in 19 California nursing homes Section 1276.5 of the California Health and Safety Code requires that California nursing homes provide an average of 3.2 hours of care to each resident daily. Furthermore, section 1430 of the same code gives nursing home residents the right to seek court-ordered relief when a nursing home violates one of certain specified resident rights, including the right to adequate staffing levels. In the litigated case, a class of residents filed suit against the chain under these provisions, but the trial court dismissed the case on the grounds that the minimum staffing level should be enforced exclusively by the California Department of Public Health.
In the friend of the court brief, NSCLC and AARP argue that the minimum staffing levels should be able to be remedied through resident rights litigation. In enacting section 1430, the California Legislature clearly called for private enforcement of resident rights. Furthermore, as the brief explains, enforcement by the Department of Public Health has proved inadequate to protect residents, and the trial court’s position leaves them powerless to enforce the minimum staffing levels.