Class action lawsuit alleges lax oversight of Maryland nursing facilities

A class action lawsuit filed in federal court this week alleges the Maryland Department of Health has failed to conduct annual inspections of dozens of nursing facilities and allowed a backlog of complaints over care to pile up — leaving residents with disabilities vulnerable.

The lawsuit, filed in U.S. District Court in Maryland, lists five plaintiffs — all residents of Maryland nursing facilities and all with serious mobility impairments.

The lawsuit lists several accounts of poor care and neglect, including residents being left in soiled clothing for hours and others confined to their beds for weeks.

Overall, the suit claims the department has allowed 181 nursing facilities to go at least 16 months without conducting an inspection, known as a survey. That’s 81% of the state’s 225 licensed nursing facilities. The department has allowed more than 100 facilities to go four years without an annual inspection, the suit claims.

“When MDH fails to carry out its oversight responsibilities, dangerously poor-quality care within nursing facilities goes undetected and uncorrected,” the lawsuit stated.

The department’s performance completing annual surveys “is among the worst” in the U.S., the suit claims, with only one other state — Kentucky — “more delinquent than Maryland.”

WTOP reached out the Maryland Department of Health for comment on the lawsuit. In an email, a spokesman said: “The Maryland Department of Health is committed to providing the best care to Maryland residents. We do not have any further comment on active litigation.”

The suit was filed by the Public Justice Center and the group Justice in Aging. It seeks class action status, arguing the department’s alleged lax oversight violates the federal Americans with Disabilities Act and state regulations.

The lawsuit also points to a serious backlog of complaints brought directly by residents — some alleging “serious allegations of harm to residents” — that the lawsuit says have not been investigated.

While complaints raising issues that amount to what the department considers “immediate jeopardy” to a resident are investigated promptly, in line with state regulations, the department regularly allows other complaints to languish, according to the lawsuit.

Overall, over the past three years, the department reported some 13,173 complaints and facility-related reports, of which fewer than half have been investigated, according to the lawsuit.

“This results in nursing facility residents waiting months, or even years, for their complaints that they were harmed by abuse, neglect, poor-quality care, or rights violations, to be investigated,” the lawsuit stated.

In one account included in the lawsuit, lawyers said a 54-year-old woman with muscular dystrophy, who uses a wheelchair, had been left in soiled clothing for up to two hours waiting for staff to respond to her call bell.

The lawsuit says the facility, whose name is redacted, is often without hot water and despite the woman filing a complaint last September, the department has not yet investigated.

Another resident cited in the lawsuit, a 61-year-old man with paralysis of all four limbs, has been confined to his bed in his shared room since March 2023, with the exception of medical appointments.

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Jack Moore

Jack Moore joined as a digital writer/editor in July 2016. Previous to his current role, he covered federal government management and technology as the news editor at, part of Government Executive Media Group.

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