WASHINGTON, D.C. — Next month, the U.S. Supreme Court will hear arguments in a lawsuit that started in Indiana.

The question at the center of the case is whether people can sue publicly-owned nursing homes for violations of federal law under Medicare and Medicaid.

It’s a lawsuit Susie Talevski said she never imagined would be heard by the nation’s High Court. However, she said she believes it has big implications for some families.

“I thought he was going to die, to tell you the truth,” she said. “I was so concerned.”

Talevski said her father, Gorgi, needed care in a nursing home due to his dementia. In 2019, her family filed a lawsuit after he was moved to another facility under the Health and Hospital Corporation of Marion County.

Talevski alleges the nursing home did not get her family’s consent for the transfer or the psychiatric medications he was given. Her family argues that violates federal law under Section 1983.

“A nursing home is the home of the nursing home patient,” Talevski said. “That’s where they live. And there is a nursing home paid residents’ Bill of Rights.”

Talevski said she filed the lawsuit to ensure her family and others could hold facilities accountable.

Several advocacy groups have filed briefs in support of the family.

“We need to make sure that it shows that their rights are protected so that if they want to get home- and community-based services that they have the option of doing that,” said Kim Dodson, CEO of The Arc of Indiana. “If they are abused or neglected in those types of settings that they have a recourse.”

The Health and Hospital Corporation argues families cannot sue a publicly-owned nursing home in federal court for such a violation.

The Health and Hospital Corporation declined our request for an interview but provided a statement that reads in part: “Nursing homes in our state are held accountable by multiple agencies… And there are several ways patients can find legal remedy if they believe a right has been violated.”

The Health and Hospital Corporation argues families can sue in state court.

Steve Sanders of the IU Maurer School of Law points out the case only applies to public care facilities, not those that are privately-owned.

“This is a fairly technical issue, but it is a potentially important one,” he said.

That’s because if the court rules in the Health and Hospital Corporation’s favor, that would stop families from being able to sue for violations of this specific federal law in publicly-owned care facilities, Sanders explained.

“It would close off one avenue that’s been open up until now for residents of government-operated nursing homes to sue to vindicate their rights,” Sanders said.

The ruling would not impact families’ ability to sue for violations of other federal laws or state law, Sanders said.

Indiana Attorney General Todd Rokita and 16 other state attorneys general have filed a brief in support of the county.

The Supreme Court is set to hear arguments on Nov. 8.