Arbitration Agreements May Hinder Maryland Plaintiff’s Ability to Recover Against Negligent Nursing Homes

Although one hopes that Maryland nursing home abuse will never happen, state law understands that, when it inevitably does, the individuals affected have a right to bring a civil suit against the nursing home. However, many nursing homes may ask residents and their families to sign away that right by signing an arbitration agreement. Arbitration agreements, which vary depending on the nursing home, generally bind both the resident and the home to settling any disputes that arise through an arbitrator, rather than in a judicial forum.

With a valid arbitration agreement, when an individual is injured or suffers a premature death as the result of the nursing home’s negligence, the victim or their family must pursue their claim confidentially, through an arbitrator chosen by the facility. Arbitration, although it is quicker and potentially less burdensome than bringing a suit in court, may still be disadvantageous for plaintiffs. For example, nursing homes typically have the power to choose the arbitrator, who acts as the judge, and they may choose one they have worked with before. Additionally, there is no jury, and no appellate process.

Generally, signed arbitration agreements are valid and enforceable, and a nursing home can compel arbitration if a resident or their family ever file a suit against them in court. However, like all contracts, nursing home residents can challenge a contract that they signed without knowing what they were signing, claiming they never agreed to waive their right to sue. Recently, a state appellate court considered a case where this happened. According to the court’s written opinion, the plaintiff required 24-hour nursing care due to multiple disabilities. When he was admitted to the defendant nursing home, they had him sign 12 documents, including an arbitration agreement, but the facility’s employees never explained the arbitration agreement to him or gave him a copy to review.

After living in the nursing home for some time, the plaintiff filed a civil suit against the home for negligence, stating that their conduct caused him to develop advanced-stage pressure ulcers, which resulted in pain, suffering, disability, medical expenses, and a diminished quality of life. According to the plaintiff, he did not realize he had signed an arbitration agreement until the nursing home filed a motion to dismiss and compel arbitration. The court, however, denied the motion to dismiss. Relying specifically on the facts of the case, the court found that the plaintiff did not know and was never given an opportunity to know the content of the arbitration agreement he was asked to sign, and was not provided with a copy of it after he signed the document. Under state law, contracts signed without the mutual assent of the parties are unenforceable. As such, the plaintiff was able to successfully bring a civil suit in court against the nursing home, instead of being forced to arbitrate.

Have You Suffered Because of a Nursing Home’s Negligence?

If you or a loved one has recently suffered mental or physical injuries due to a Maryland nursing home staff member’s abuse or neglect, you may be able to bring a civil suit in court and recover for your injuries. For assistance, and to maximize your potential for success, call Lebowitz & Mzhen, Personal Injury Lawyers. Our dedicated attorneys have years of experience advocating for clients and have the resources needed to take on nursing homes. Call us today at 800-654-1949.

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