Are Arbitration Agreements in Maryland Nursing Home Contracts Enforceable?

When someone is admitted into a Maryland nursing home, the nursing home will present the potential resident with pre-admission paperwork that must be completed before the home will accept the resident into its care. This paperwork will often contain an arbitration agreement by which the resident agrees to resolve any disputes that arise through binding arbitration, rather than filing a case in court.

Most nursing home residents are admitted to a Maryland nursing home because they are unable to care for themselves. Thus, the pre-admission paperwork is often filled out by loved ones who are helping their aging relative obtain the care they need. These family members may or may not have power of attorney over their loved one’s affairs. Even if a resident has executed a power of attorney in favor of a loved one, the exact wording of the document is crucial when determining whether the loved one has the ability to bind the resident to an arbitration agreement.

Recently, a court dismissed a nursing home’s request to compel a resident to resolve their case through arbitration. In that case, a man was admitted to the defendant nursing home. At the time of admission, the man was alert and aware of his surroundings. However, he was accompanied by his niece, who signed all nursing home pre-admission paperwork. Included in this paperwork was an agreement to arbitrate all claims. The resident had executed a power of attorney in favor of his niece. However, that document was only effective once the resident became mentally incompetent.

Two weeks after the man was admitted into the defendant nursing home’s care, he died. The man’s niece filed a wrongful death lawsuit against the nursing home, claiming that her uncle was over-medicated and dehydrated, which led to his death.

The nursing home argued that the claim should be dismissed and the plaintiff should be required to submit her claim through the arbitration process. The court agreed with the plaintiff, explaining that the durable power of attorney that was executed in favor of the man’s niece was not yet in effect at the time he was admitted into the nursing home’s care. The court explained that the document was only effective upon the resident becoming mentally incompetent. Because there was no indication that the resident was mentally incompetent at the time he was admitted into the nursing home, the niece did not have the authority to sign an arbitration agreement on her uncle’s behalf. As a result, the nursing home’s request to force the plaintiff to arbitrate her claim was denied.

Is Your Loved One at Risk?

If you have a relative in a Maryland, Virginia, or Washington, D.C. nursing home and are concerned that they may not be receiving the care that they need and deserve, contact the Maryland personal injury attorneys at the law firm of Lebowitz & Mzhen, LLC. At Lebowitz & Mzhen, we represent injury victims in personal injury cases across Maryland, Virginia, and Washington, D.C, including victims of Maryland nursing home abuse and neglect. We work closely with our clients and have a broad network of experts on call to assist our clients in proving their case. To learn more, call 410-654-3600 to schedule a free consultation.

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