Earlier this month, the Supreme Court of Kentucky decided a group of cases brought against a number of nursing homes alleging personal injury. The cases themselves have little to do with each other, but they were consolidated by the court because they all presented the same issue: whether the nursing home was able to compel arbitration based on the contract that they had on file from each resident.
The relevant facts of the cases are simple. Each plaintiff was admitted to a nursing home with the assistance of someone who possessed power of attorney. As a part of the admission process, the nursing home required that a contract was signed. One clause in each of the contracts stated that any problems or disputes that arose between the parties would be settled through arbitration, rather than through the court system. For each of the plaintiffs, the person who possessed power of attorney was the person to actually sign the document.
When the nursing home residents were injured by the alleged negligence of the nursing homes at issue, the family members of those involved filed suit against the nursing home. The nursing homes, in response, sought to dismiss the cases based on the signed contract consenting to arbitration in the event of a problem.
The Court’s Opinion
The lower court determined that the decedents did not validly waive the right to a trial by jury. The Supreme Court of Kentucky agreed, citing several reasons in a lengthy and detailed opinion. The court initially noted that there was a distinction between the enforcement and the formation of an arbitration contract. In fact, the court plainly stated that if the contracts were properly formed, they would have to be enforced. However, the contracts, the court held, were not properly created in the first place.
In order to determine if the contracts were validly formed, the court looked to whether the person signing the contract had the legal authority to give up the plaintiffs’ right to a jury trial. The court noted that, as a general rule, a nursing home patient cannot waive the future right of any other person to bring a wrongful death case against a nursing home, since it is not their right to waive. The court explained that, while there may be exceptions to this rule, the intent to waive the right must be explicit in the contractual instrument. Since such an explicit term was not contained in any of the contracts at issue, the person possessing power of attorney could not waive the future right of another person to bring a lawsuit against the other parties to the contract.
Has Your Loved One Been Injured in a Maryland Nursing Home?
If your loved one has recently been seriously injured or killed as a result of a nursing home employee’s negligent or intentional conduct, you may be entitled to monetary compensation. However, as you can see from the discussion above, these lawsuits can give rise to many complex and unanticipated issues. To ensure that you are well represented in your case, call 410-654-3600 today to set up a free consultation with one of the dedicated nursing home injury attorneys at the Maryland-based law firm of Lebowitz & Mzhen, LLC.
More Blog Posts:
Nurse Faces Criminal Charges for Abuse of Resident, Maryland Nursing Home Lawyer Blog, published September 28, 2015.
Video Camera Installed By Loved Ones Catches Abusive Nurses in Action, Maryland Nursing Home Lawyer Blog, published August 13, 2015.