Nursing Homes: The Nursing Home Act Does Not Apply To Comprehensive Rehabilitation Hospitals

By: Donna Russo, Esq.        

             In Wilson Bermudez v. Kessler Institute For Rehabilitation, Appellate Division, A-1610-13T4, decided January 8, 2015 (reported decision) the Appellate Division reversed the trial court’s order denying partial summary judgment in favor of Kessler for the allegations of the complaint alleging violations of The Nursing Home Responsibilities and Rights of Residents Act (Nursing Home Act), N.J.S.A. 30:13-1to -17 and federal regulations governing nursing homes.  The Appellate Division held that comprehensive rehabilitation hospitals, such as Kessler, do not satisfy the definition of “nursing homes” under the Nursing Home Act.  This holding is significant when considering damages.  The Nursing Home Act allows recovery for treble damages and attorney’s fees by the successful plaintiff which are not available in a traditional negligence case.  N.J.S.A. 30:13-4.2, -8.

The Nursing Home Act defines “nursing homes” as

any institution, whether operated for profit or not, which maintains and operates facilities for extended medical and nursing home treatment or care for two or more nonrelated individuals who are suffering from acute or chronic illness or injury, or are crippled, convalescent or infirm and are in need of such treatment or care on a continuing basis.  Infirm is construed to mean that an individual is in need of assistance, in bathing, dressing or some type of supervision.  N.J.S.A. 30: 13-2(c).

On the other hand, a “rehabilitation hospital” is defined by N.J.A.C. 8:33-1.3 as

a hospital licensed by the Department to provide comprehensive rehabilitation services to patients for the alleviation or amelioration of the disabling effects of illness.  Comprehensive rehabilitation services are characterized by coordinated delivery of multidisciplinary care intended to achieve the goal of maximizing the self-sufficiency of the patient.  A rehabilitation hospital is a facility licensed to provide only comprehensive rehabilitation services or is a distinct unit providing only comprehensive rehabilitation services located within a licensed health care facility.

In reaching its decision that a comprehensive rehabilitation hospital is not a nursing home, the Appellate Division examined the legislative history of the Nursing Home Act and found that the Legislature did not intend for comprehensive rehabilitation hospitals to fall under the Act.  The case involved multiple falls at the rehabilation facility.  If the multiple falls had been at a nursing home,  the Nursing Home Act and the regulations would have governed.