One issue that often arises in Maryland nursing home cases is the effect of an arbitration agreement on a resident’s claim. In a recent case, one state’s appeals court considered whether an arbitration agreement was enforceable even though the resident passed away before the rescission period had passed.
In that case, an elderly woman had been a nursing home resident in a 24-hour nursing facility. After her death, the woman’s family filed a lawsuit against the nursing home facility, claiming elder abuse, negligence, wrongful death, and violations of the Patient’s Bill of Rights under state law. The nursing home argued that the case had to be resolved through arbitration because the resident had executed two arbitration agreements with the facility.
The arbitration agreements had language that was required by the state, which mandated that there be a 30-day “cooling off” period. During the cooling off period, either the nursing home or the resident could decide to rescind the agreement. The resident died 10 days after the woman signed the agreements, before the 30-day period had passed. The woman’s family argued that the agreements were not valid because the woman died before the expiration of the 30-day rescission period had ended.
However, a state court of appeals found the agreements were valid and enforceable. The court determined that under the state’s law, the agreements were valid upon execution. It explained that the fact that one signatory to the agreements died before the expiration of the 30-day rescission period did not make the parties’ agreements unenforceable. Accordingly, the case had to be resolved in arbitration.
Arbitration Agreements in Nursing Home Cases
Arbitration is a procedure that allows parties to resolve a case outside the court system. In arbitration, an arbitrator (or a panel of arbitrators) is chosen by the parties and makes the final decision in the case. Arbitration can allow parties to avoid some of the costs and delays generally involved in litigation, but both parties have to agree to participate in arbitration. Yet contracts often contain an arbitration clause, stating that any claims will be resolved in arbitration–and if both parties sign the contract, one party can generally force the other party into arbitration.
Nursing home admission agreements often contain arbitration agreements, requiring residents to resolve disputes with the nursing facility in arbitration. Nursing homes may want to include arbitration agreements in their contracts in order to avoid exposing themselves to costly litigation. In general, arbitration agreements are enforceable—but in some cases, they may not be. For example, an arbitration clause may be unenforceable if the signatory lacked capacity to enter into a contract.
Contact a Maryland Nursing Home Attorney
If you believe you may have a claim against a Maryland nursing home, and your loved one or a representative signed an arbitration agreement before being admitted, you will have to consider how the agreement might affect your claim. At Lebowitz & Mzhen, LLC, we approach each case with empathy and professionalism, and we provide you with the attention you deserve. Our trial attorneys have nearly two decades of experience representing victims throughout Maryland and Washington, D.C. Contact us at 800-654-1949 or 410-654-3600, or fill out our online form to set up a free consultation.
More Blog Posts:
Social Media’s Role in Perpetuating Nursing Home Abuse, Maryland Nursing Home Lawyer Blog, published August 7, 2017.
Family Sues Nursing Home After Failing to Revive Resident for Over 30 Minutes, Maryland Nursing Home Lawyer Blog, published July 14, 2017.