Over the past few months, we have frequently covered cases and news stories discussing the issue of mandatory arbitration clauses that are contained in Maryland nursing home contracts. In Maryland and around the country, arbitration clauses continue to be one of the most contentious issues in many cases that are filed against nursing homes based on either the neglect or abuse of a resident. If enforceable, an arbitration clause can prevent a nursing home resident or their loved ones from pursuing a claim against the facility in court.
In a recent case issued by a state appellate court, a nursing home arbitration agreement was held not to be applicable against a resident’s son, although the resident’s son was the person who signed the form. According to the court’s opinion, the resident was admitted to the defendant nursing home in 2015. At the time, he was suffering from sepsis and chronic renal failure. The man’s son (the plaintiff) accompanied him to the nursing home and facilitated his admission.
The day after his father was admitted into the nursing home, the plaintiff was presented with a stack of documents to sign. Among these documents was one that, by signing, the plaintiff purported to consent to arbitration if the mediation process was not successful in resolving the case. All documents were signed.
Just five days after being admitted to the defendant nursing home, the resident’s feeding tube became dislodged. As a result, the feeding tube began infusing into the resident’s throat. The resident was unable to remove the tube, and aspirated, ultimately resulting in cardiopulmonary arrest. The resident died shortly after the incident.
The plaintiff brought a nursing home negligence lawsuit against the facility, making claims of both professional and traditional negligence. The nursing home sought to dismiss the case based on the signed arbitration agreement. The trial court denied the nursing home’s request, and the facility appealed.
On appeal, the court held that the arbitration clause was not binding against the resident’s son. The court explained that, notwithstanding the language of the agreement or the fact that the plaintiff unquestionably signed it, there was no evidence that the plaintiff intended to waive his own right to pursue a claim in the event something happened to his father while residing at the facility. In so holding, the court acknowledged that there is a strong public policy in favor of arbitration; however, only when both parties consent.
Is Your Loved One at Risk?
If you have a loved one in a Maryland nursing home and fear that they are not being treated with the dignity and respect that they deserve, contact the dedicated Maryland nursing home abuse and neglect lawyers at Lebowitz & Mzhen, LLC. The time to act is now. At Lebowitz & Mzhen, we help nursing home residents and their family members pursue claims for compensation against those who are responsible for their injuries, including nursing home employees and administrators. We have a reputation for aggressively standing up for the rights of those who have been victimized by negligent or abusive nursing home staff members. To learn more, call 410-654-3600 to schedule a free consultation today.