Plaintiff Wilson Bermudez was a patient at Kessler Institute for Rehabilitation’s West Facility for five weeks, during which his treatment included 24-hour rehabilitative nursing “to address complex medical, nursing, and rehabilitative needs.” When Bermudez later sued Kessler for injuries he allegedly sustained, he included claims under the New Jersey Nursing Home Responsibilities and Rights of Residents Act, N.J.S.A. 30:13-1 et seq. (the “Nursing Home Act”).

Kessler argued that its facility was a comprehensive rehabilitation hospital, rather than a nursing home. Bermudez countered that, although the facility was licensed as a comprehensive rehabilitation hospital, it nevertheless met the Nursing Home Act’s broad definition of a nursing home. The distinction was critical because, unlike a traditional negligence action, an action under the Nursing Home Act permits a successful plaintiff to recover attorney fees and treble damages.

Based on its claim that it did not meet the definition of a nursing home, Kessler moved to dismiss the Nursing Home Act claims. Its motion was denied, and Kessler filed an appeal. The Appellate Division reversed the lower court, finding that Kessler did not fall within the definition of a nursing home under the Act.

The Appellate Division relied on the Supreme Court’s recognition that there are “significant differences in the patients, the health-care providers, and the institutional structures of nursing homes and hospitals.” In re Conroy, 98 N.J. 321 (1985). It reviewed the language of the Nursing Home Act itself, and found that the legislative history of the Act contained no evidence of an intent to include a rehabilitative hospital within the Act. Consequently, the Appellate Division concluded that a comprehensive rehabilitative hospital such as Kessler did not fall within the statutory definition of a nursing home, and was therefore not subject to the Nursing Home Act’s provisions.

A copy of Bermudez v. Kessler Institute for Rehabilitation can be found here – Bermudez v. Kessler Institute for Rehabilitation       

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