Court Invalidates Arbitration Agreement in Recent Nursing Home Lawsuit

Earlier this month, an appellate court issued a written opinion in a personal injury lawsuit discussing the validity of an arbitration agreement. The court ultimately concluded that the arbitration agreement, which was signed by the plaintiff on behalf of his deceased father, was not enforceable against the plaintiff to preclude a wrongful death lawsuit against the defendant nursing home facility.

The case is important to Maryland nursing home litigants because, like the statute discussed in the case, Maryland’s wrongful death statute creates an independent claim that is not derivative of the rights of the deceased.

The Facts of the Case

The plaintiff’s father was a resident in the defendant nursing home. Prior to being admitted to the nursing home, the resident was required to sign a pre-admission contract containing an arbitration agreement. The resident, however, was unable to sign the form due to his physical condition. The form was stamped “unable to sign,” and the plaintiff signed the form on his father’s behalf. Underneath his signature, the plaintiff wrote “son.”

Five days after admission, the plaintiff’s father passed away. The plaintiff filed a wrongful death lawsuit against the defendant nursing home, claiming that the home’s negligence resulted in the death of his father.

The nursing home claimed that the plaintiff’s wrongful death lawsuit should have been resolved through arbitration, pursuant to the arbitration agreement. The plaintiff claimed that he had signed the form on his father’s behalf, rather than on his own, and that it should not preclude him from pursuing the case through the court system.

The Court’s Decision

The court determined that the arbitration clause could not be enforced against the plaintiff, and it permitted the plaintiff’s wrongful death lawsuit to proceed. In so holding, the court explained that a wrongful death lawsuit is an independent claim, and it is not a derivative cause of action that is based on the rights of the deceased. Thus, the arbitration agreement between the plaintiff’s father and the defendant nursing facility did not preclude the plaintiff from pursuing his own case through the court system.

Maryland’s Wrongful Death Statute

As discussed in a 2016 case, a Maryland wrongful death case is an independent claim that is not derivative of the claim between the deceased and the defendant. Thus, anyone who qualifies as either a primary or secondary beneficiary may be able to pursue a wrongful death claim based on the loss of a loved one, and the fact that an arbitration agreement was signed by the deceased will likely not affect a subsequent wrongful death plaintiff. Each case, however, is different, and anyone considering filing a wrongful death lawsuit should consult with a dedicated personal injury attorney.

Is Your Loved One at Risk?

If you have a loved one in a Maryland nursing home, and you are concerned that they may have been subject to abuse or neglect, you may be entitled to monetary compensation through a Maryland nursing home abuse lawsuit. The dedicated personal injury lawyers at the law firm of Lebowitz & Mzhen Personal Injury Lawyers have extensive experience representing nursing home residents and their families in all types of nursing home abuse and neglect lawsuits. To learn more, call 410-654-3600 to schedule a free consultation with an attorney to discuss your case.

More Blog Posts:

Overuse of Antipsychotic Drugs in Nursing Homes Remains Problem, Putting Some Residents in Grave Danger, Maryland Nursing Home Lawyer Blog, published February 21, 2018.

Civil Lawsuits Versus Criminal Prosecutions in Nursing Home Abuse Cases, Maryland Nursing Home Lawyer Blog, published March 7, 2018.

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