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Feds Strike a Blow for Freedom: $380K Fine for Locking Up
Nursing Home Resident


A Maryland nursing home has been fined $380,750 for placing a resident in a locked unit and prohibiting one of her daughters from visiting. The fine, recently upheld by a federal appeals board, is noteworthy for two reasons: one, it involves a large, six-figure fine and two, locking up nursing home residents and restricting their visitation happens all of the time.

The case involved a resident in her 70’s who had lived at NMS Healthcare of Hagerstown for years. Following a brief hospitalization, she was moved to a locked unit in the facility and denied egress from the unit and from the facility itself. The move was approved by one of the resident’s daughters - acting as agent under a power of attorney - but she lacked any legal authority to confine her mother in a locked unit. The agent/daughter also approved a visitation restriction that prohibited the resident’s other daughter from visiting.

The appeals board was definitive: nursing home residents may not be confined against their will or have access restricted to family members, even if a power of attorney agent has consented. “Otherwise, nursing facilities could be turned into prisons in which family members lock their relatives away purely for the sake of convenience. . . . Residents of nursing facilities have rights and those rights include the right to freedom of movement.”

The facility was fined $5,650 a day for each day the resident was confined to the locked unit and $150 a day for the visitation restriction.

For guidance on dealing with nursing home false imprisonment issues, please see CANHR’s publication Your Right to Leave. For guidance on dealing with nursing home visitation issues, please see Your Right to Visit. The appeals board decision can be seen here.