Are Family Members of Maryland Nursing Home Residents Bound by Arbitration Agreements?

Maryland nursing home plaintiffs often have to wrestle with the impact of nursing home arbitration agreements. Massachusetts’s Supreme Court will soon decide whether wrongful death plaintiffs in nursing home lawsuits can be forced into arbitration. Many nursing home residents sign arbitration agreements when admitted into a nursing home, which can later limit their ability to bring claims against the nursing home. A recent lawsuit challenged the enforceability of such agreements against a resident’s heirs in bringing wrongful death claims in court.

In this case, a federal appeals court considered whether arbitration agreements can bar a resident’s heirs from later bringing wrongful death claims in the state. The resident had been admitted to a nursing home, and when she was admitted, her daughter signed an arbitration agreement for her as her representative. The agreement stated that any dispute covered by the agreement would be resolved “exclusively by an [alternative dispute resolution] process that shall include mediation and, where mediation is not successful, arbitration.” The agreement also stated that it applied to the resident and “all persons whose claim is or may be derived” through the resident, including the resident’s heirs, representative, executor, and others.

After her mother died while in the care of the defendant nursing home, the daughter later brought a wrongful death suit against the facility, claiming that it was responsible for her mother’s death. The nursing home argued that the claim had to be resolved in arbitration, pursuant to the arbitration agreement the daughter signed on her mother’s behalf. It further argued that the daughter’s claim was derivative of the resident’s claim, and that her claim was bound by the agreement. The daughter argued that she was not bound by the agreement because her claim against the nursing home as a beneficiary in a wrongful death claim is independent of her mother’s claim.

The issue was before the 1st Circuit Court of Appeals, which certified the question to the Massachusetts Supreme Judicial Court, asking it to resolve the issue. The court explained that there are substantial policy considerations at stake, in part because of the high rates of abuse and neglect in nursing homes. The appeals court could not determine how the state would rule on the issue, prompting it to ask the state to decide the case.

Filing Maryland Wrongful Death Claims

Wrongful death claims in Maryland are meant to compensate family members for their losses as a result of their loved one’s death. The Wrongful Death Act in Maryland allows claims to be brought against those whose wrongful acts caused the death of another person. Generally, claims must be brought within three years of the date of the person’s death. Generally, Maryland wrongful death claims are not held to be derivative of the deceased’s cause of action against the defendant, making it less likely that a resident’s heirs will be bound by an arbitration agreement. Of course, each case depends heavily on its particular facts and anyone considering a Maryland nursing home abuse or neglect lawsuit should consult with a dedicated Maryland personal injury attorney.

Contact a Maryland Nursing Home Abuse Attorney

As more and more families are forced to rely on nursing homes for the care of their loved ones, incidents of abuse and neglect in nursing homes continue to arise. Unfortunately, many Maryland nursing homes are not properly equipped or staffed to care for all residents. If you believe that your loved one is the victim of abuse or neglect in a long-term care facility, contact Lebowitz & Mzhen, LLC. Our attorneys have decades of experience representing victims throughout Maryland, Virginia, and Washington, D.C. Call us at 1-800-654-1949 or 410-654-3600 or by filling out our online form.

More Blog Posts:

Maryland Nursing Home Arbitration Agreements Must Be Clear to Be Enforceable, Maryland Nursing Home Lawyer Blog, published February 8, 2019.

Many Maryland Nursing Home Residents Have Difficulty Reporting Abuse, Maryland Nursing Home Lawyer Blog, published February 21, 2019.

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