(Reuters) – The U.S. Supreme Court on Thursday preserved the ability for people to sue for civil rights violations under an 1871 law, as it rejected a bid to prevent a family living in an Indiana nursing home from suing over his care at a state facility.
The justices in a 7-2 ruling written by liberal Justice Ketanji Brown Jackson upheld a lower court’s ruling that allowed the wife of Gorgi Talevski, a nursing home resident diagnosed with dementia, to sue the Indiana municipal corporation Health and Hospital Corp. in Marion County regarding claims it violated his rights.
The suit was filed under a measure known as Section 1983 that was passed as part of the Ku Klux Klan Act of 1871, a law enacted during the Reconstruction era after the Civil War to protect the rights of black Americans. Section 1983 gives people the right to sue in federal court when government officials violate their constitutional or statutory rights.
Conservative Justices Clarence Thomas and Samuel Alito dissented from the decision.
The lawsuit stemmed from Mr. Talevski’s 2016 admission to Valparaiso Care and Rehabilitation, a nursing home operated by Health and Hospital Corp. after his family determined that his dementia required professional care.
In a 2019 lawsuit, his wife, Ivanka Talevski, said Talevski was subjected to harmful psychotropic drugs and illegally transferred to an all-male facility. He died in 2021 while the trial was ongoing.
A law called the Federal Nursing Home Reform Act places restrictions on the use of physical or chemical restraints and on moving patients. Mr. Talevski’s wife claimed that her husband’s rights were being violated.
The Biden administration had urged the justices to reject a broad limitation on lawsuits brought under Section 1983. But it had also argued that the federal nursing home statute provided extensive administrative processes and remedies that made a trial unnecessary by exposing nursing homes that violate residents’ rights to financial penalties and termination of their Medicaid funding.