Sacramento –Assembly Bill 849 authored by Assembly Majority Leader Eloise Gómez Reyes (D-San Bernardino) passed the Assembly Judiciary Committee. The COVID-19 pandemic devastated nursing homes and skilled nursing facilities. Their vulnerable patients were among the first victims of the pandemic. Additionally, the pandemic prevented family members from visiting or even advocating for their family members in nursing homes. AB 849 holds skilled nursing facilities and long term care facilities accountable for violating a current or former resident’s rights as set forth in the Patient’s Bill of Rights. A licensee would be liable for up to $500 per violation. The purpose of AB 849 is to both deter and remedy violations and ensure that the intent of the law is to address each violation that has occurred.
“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,” said Assemblymember Reyes. “In this way, we can balance the scales of justice, and ensure that those who harm our seniors are held accountable and that such action will serve as a deterrent to others.”
This bill comes in response to a ruling for John Jarman who successfully proved in a trial court that HCR ManorCare, the LTC where he resided, violated his rights 382 times. (See Jarman v. HCR Manorcare (2020) 10 Cal. 5th 375.) Despite his successful outcome, upon review, the California Supreme Court concluded that as it is currently written, Health & Safety Code Section 1430 (b) limits monetary compensation for violations of the Patients’ Bill of Rights to $500 for each action instead of each violation. AB 849 would simply restore the legislative intent that created Health & Safety Code 1430 (b) and the reasonable interpretation as held by the Fourth Appellate District decision that penalties were meant to be assessed on a per violation basis rather than $500 per action in total.