gavel on table

New Jersey’s nursing home residents can sue for a breach of the facility’s statutory bill of rights, but assisted living facility residents do not have that right, according to a recent court ruling.

June 15, a New Jersey court overturned a lower court’s finding that allowed the estate of a resident to sue a Care One assisted living community. 

“The majority of the decision is based on analyzing other cases” dating back to 1953, Rafael Vergara, an attorney at White and Williams, said in an interview.  Because the clause is not explicitly stated in the state’s assisted living bill of rights, it cannot be implied either, he said.

The reason, according to Vergara, is that the nursing home bill of rights specifically allows residents to pursue a private cause of action for violating a resident’s rights, but the assisted living bill of rights is mum about that capability.

In each of the cases the court examined, “the legislature declared bills of rights for residents and expressly authorized private causes of action for a violation of those rights,” Vergara wrote in an article with co-author Monica Doss.

“According to the court, however, when the legislature recognized assisted living residences in 2002 and enacted a bill of rights for assisted living residences in 2011, the legislature did not make the same express authorization for private causes of action that it did in prior related legislation,” they wrote. 

It would be up to the state legislature to amend the bill of rights for assisted living to include authorization for residents to sue for violations of their rights.