Arbitration Clauses in Nursing Home Contracts: Are They Binding?

In an ideal world, a nursing home would care for elderly people and allow them to live out their last years in peace and with dignity. However, anyone who has kept an eye on the headlines knows that this is not always the case. In too many cases, nursing home employees neglect or abuse the very residents for whom they are charged with caring. In such cases, the abused resident or their family may want to hold the nursing home responsible through a civil lawsuit seeking monetary compensation for their loved one’s suffering.

However, nursing homes, like many other businesses, have started to include arbitration clauses in the contracts that are signed prior to resident admission. These arbitration clauses are essentially an agreement not to go through the legal system, should any problems arise between the parties. Instead, the case would go before an arbiter whose decision very likely would be final.

The problems with arbitration clauses are several, but the chief concerns are that they are out of the public eye and are not always neutral. This is because the nursing home contract will often designate which arbiter will handle the case, essentially allowing the nursing home to pick their own “judge.”

Nursing Home Arbitration Contracts Under Fire

Recently, nursing home arbitration contracts have come under fire by residents attempting to get a fair trial against those alleged to have harmed their loved ones. According to one recent article detailing one man’s journey in pursuit of justice, he recently had success explaining to a court that the nursing home contract, and thus the arbitration clause, was not binding against the resident because she was not the one to sign the contract. Instead, it was her son who signed it, as her designated health care proxy.

The argument is a simple one and goes like this. At the time of the signing of the contract, the right to agree to arbitration does not belong to anyone besides the nursing home resident. Although the resident’s health care proxy – in this case, the resident’s son – has the legal authority to place a resident into a nursing facility, the proxy does not have the legal authority to give away the resident’s right to the court system, should a problem arise. Since a wrongful death lawsuit is technically filed on behalf of the deceased person, rather than on behalf of surviving loved ones, the right to access the court system would remain with the resident.

This legal argument is still novel and may not apply successfully in all jurisdictions. However, it is potentially the start of a movement that will allow those wronged by nursing homes greater access to the court system.

Have You Lost a Loved One in a Maryland Nursing Home?

If you have recently lost a loved one in a Maryland nursing home, and you believe it was due to the negligence or abuse of nursing home employees, you may be entitled to monetary compensation for all that your loved one was put through. The skilled Maryland personal injury advocates at the law firm of Lebowitz & Mzhen Personal Injury Lawyers have decades of experience helping the surviving family members of nursing home abuse seek what is rightfully theirs. Call 410-654-3600 today to set up a free consultation.

More Blog Posts:

Nurse Charged with Abusing Patient and Falsifying Business Records to Cover It Up, Maryland Nursing Home Lawyer Blog, published February 15, 2016.

Psychological Abuse in Nursing Homes, Maryland Nursing Home Lawyer Blog, published February 5, 2016.

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