Court Refuses to Enforce Arbitration Agreement in Recent Nursing Home Case

Over the past few years, Maryland nursing home arbitration agreements have become very common. Essentially, an arbitration agreement is a contractual term between the resident and the nursing home in which the parties agree that, in the event a claim arises, neither party will file a case in the court system. Instead, the parties agree that they will submit the case to an arbitration panel, which will then issue a binding decision.

The issues with arbitration are now well known, although that was not always the case. At first blush, arbitration does not necessarily seem like a bad thing because it can result in the quicker resolution of claims and may reduce the costs associated with litigating a case. However, studies have shown that, on average, the rulings of arbitration panels tend to favor the company over the individual. One reason for this is that the company selects the specific company that will conduct the arbitration.

Given the importance of a person’s right to access the court system, courts require that arbitration agreements clearly show the parties’ intent to waive their rights before an arbitration agreement will be enforced. Additionally, courts must determine that the arbitration agreement is written in good faith and treats both sides fairly. Courts have also rejected arbitration agreements in cases involving the survivors of those who signed the original contract, finding that the survivor was not a party to the contract.

A recent case illustrates how courts approach situations in which a nursing home is requesting a plaintiff’s case be dismissed based on a signed arbitration contract.

The Facts

The plaintiff’s husband was a patient at the defendant nursing home when he passed away. Prior to being admitted into the facility, the plaintiff signed a pre-admission contract on behalf of her husband. Included in that contract was an agreement to arbitrate any claims that arose between the parties.

The plaintiff filed a case in the court system, seeking compensation for the loss of her husband, claiming that the nursing home was negligent in providing him with the care he needed. The nursing home argued that the arbitration contract should be enforced and the plaintiff’s case dismissed.

The plaintiff claimed that the contract was in violation of sound public policy and that the court should not enforce it. The nursing home claimed that the issue of whether the arbitration agreement was enforceable should be determined by the arbitration panel. The court disagreed, noting that there was no clause in the contract delegating such decision-making to the arbitration panel, and thus the decision remained with the court. The court then found that the contract was against public policy and permitted the plaintiff’s case to proceed.

Did You Sign an Arbitration Agreement?

If a loved one has recently been injured due to the negligent care provided by a Maryland nursing home, you may have a claim for compensation against the facility. It is important that you discuss your claim with an experienced Maryland personal injury lawyer as soon as possible, even if you or your loved one has signed an agreement to arbitrate. The Maryland nursing home negligence lawyers at the law firm of Lebowitz & Mzhen Personal Injury Lawyers have extensive experience handling all types of nursing home cases, and we provide free consultations to residents’ family members. Call 410-654-3600 to schedule your free consultation today.

More Blog Posts:

Video Evidence Is Catching More Abusive Caretakers in the Act, Maryland Nursing Home Lawyer Blog, published March 23, 2018.

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

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