Can Parties Still Be Forced to Arbitrate After a Maryland Nursing Home Arbitration Agreement Expires?

Arbitration agreements are often the source of litigation in Maryland nursing home abuse and neglect lawsuits. Residents and their family members often sign these agreements without giving the terms of the agreement much thought. A state appellate court’s recent decision considered whether an agreement to arbitrate survived even if the remainder of the contract had expired.

According to the court’s opinion, a resident arrived at the defendant nursing home and was immediately given a residency agreement which said the agreement would continue indefinitely. However, the agreement also stated that  either party could terminate the contract immediately upon written notice in the event of the resident’s death or of the resident’s relocation “due to [her] health.” An arbitration clause within the contract stated that all claims arising from the agreement or against the facility would be submitted to arbitration. The facility allegedly failed to administer thyroid medication to the resident for over a year, causing her to suffer health complications. The resident and her daughter (the plaintiffs) filed a lawsuit against the facility based on the facility’s alleged failure to administer the medication. The facility tried to have the case resolved in arbitration, relying on the arbitration clause in the agreement.

The plaintiffs argued that the contract expired in July 2017, when the resident relocated to a new unit and signed a new contract. The court held that even if the rest of the residency agreement terminated, the arbitration agreement did not. The court concluded that the arbitration clause gave the arbitrator the power to decide all disputes concerning the interpretation of the agreement, including when the agreement terminated. The appeals court also held that the plaintiffs failed to make an independent challenge to the arbitration agreement itself. Therefore, the plaintiffs were required to proceed with their claim through arbitration.

Do Arbitration Agreements Survive Expired Contracts Under Maryland Law?

Maryland courts have held that a duty to arbitration may survive the expiration of an agreement that contains an arbitration clause. However, even in these circumstances, courts often still have the ability to determine whether the parties agreed to arbitration in the first place.

Although Maryland courts have held that arbitration agreements are generally enforceable, there are instances in which that is not the case. For example, a patient may not have had the capacity to enter into a valid agreement at the time of the agreement. In such situations, if another person signs the agreement, that person must have the authority to make health care decisions on the resident’s behalf.

Call a Maryland Nursing Home Attorney Today

If a resident has been injured at a Maryland nursing home, acting quickly can preserve the resident’s rights, and provide protection to other residents. Many nursing homes do not properly care for their residents, particularly in light of the current pandemic. The attorneys at Lebowitz and Mzhen, Personal Injury Lawyers, can assist Maryland residents and their families in evaluating their potential claim against a facility. To learn more, contact Lebowitz and Mzhen at 1-800-654-1949 or through our online form for a free, no-obligation consultation.

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