Arbitration is a process in which the parties agree to have a private arbitrator decide the case instead of having the case decided by a court. Although arbitration has some advantages, it can put Maryland nursing home residents at a great disadvantage in many instances. For residents that agree to arbitration as part of their admission paperwork, arbitration agreements can be difficult to get out of—in part because the Maryland Uniform Arbitration Act provides that arbitration agreements are favored.
But there are successful challenges to arbitration. For one, the parties must consent to the arbitration. Consent to arbitration in the nursing home context generally occurs by signing an arbitration agreement as part of an agreement to be admitted to the facility. Because both parties must consent, in some cases, an arbitration agreement is not valid or enforceable because the resident (against whom the agreement is often enforced) did not sign the agreement. For example, a family member may have signed the agreement who did not have the authority to sign on the resident’s behalf.
Agreements may also be unenforceable because they are unconscionable. The language may be unclear or hidden, and unreasonably favorable to one party, leaving the other party with no choice but to accept. Under these circumstances, an agreement may also be unenforceable.
A recent state appellate case illustrates the difficultly many residents encounter when trying to get out of an arbitration agreement. In that case, the plaintiff had been a resident of a nursing facility for two years. The facility lost power during Hurricane Irma, and the plaintiff claimed that she suffered injuries as a result. She claimed that the Center was negligent because it failed to relocate residents when conditions at the facility became life-threatening.
The Center argued that the case had to be resolved through arbitration because the plaintiff signed an arbitration agreement when she entered the facility. In the agreement, it stated: “Any controversy or claim arising out of or relating to this Agreement, or breach thereof, shall be settled by arbitration in accordance with the provisions of the Florida Arbitration Code found at Chapter 682.”
The plaintiff argued that the arbitration agreement did not apply to tort claims. However, the court found that the agreement was broad in scope and did apply to tort claims. The court reasoned that the claim arose out of the facility’s failure to provide appropriate nursing care, which was related to the plaintiff’s agreement with the facility. Thus, it found that based on the scope of the agreement and because arbitration was generally favored under the law, arbitration was required in that case.
Call a Maryland Nursing Home Attorney
If you or a loved one has been injured at a Maryland nursing home, you may be entitled to compensation from the facility. The experienced Maryland nursing home attorneys at Lebowitz & Mzhen have represented injured victims for over a decade and can evaluate your claim. They have the tenacity and resources to pursue all of the parties responsible for causing you or your loved one harm. Call Lebowitz & Mzhen at (410) 654-1949 or contact them through their online form to schedule a free consultation.