Court Upholds Arbitration Clause in Recent Nursing Home Wrongful Death Case

Earlier this month, a state appellate court issued a written opinion in a wrongful death case involving allegations that a nursing home failed to properly care for a resident. The focus of the court’s analysis was on the issue of an arbitration clause that was contained in a pre-admission contract signed by one of the resident’s daughters on the resident’s behalf. Ultimately, the court held that the arbitration clause should be enforced, resulting in the plaintiff being required to resolve the case through binding arbitration.

The Facts of the Case

The plaintiff was the daughter of a nursing home resident who died while in the care of the defendant nursing home. Before her death, the resident had fallen six times while a resident of the nursing home. Prior to the resident’s admission into the nursing home, one of the resident’s other daughters executed a pre-admission contract on her mother’s behalf. The contract stated that the parties agreed to submit any case arising out of the resident’s stay at the home to an arbitration panel, rather than resolving the case through the court system. Maryland nursing home residents often sign similar agreements.

At the time the contract was signed by the resident’s daughter, the daughter had power of attorney over her mother’s affairs. Specifically, the power of attorney document gave the daughter control over “all lawful health care decisions” of her mother.

The nursing home asked the court to dismiss the case against it, based on the arbitration agreement. The trial court denied the motion without analysis, and the nursing home appealed.

On appeal, the lower court’s decision was reversed in favor of the nursing home. The appellate court concluded that the general power of attorney executed in favor of the resident’s daughter was valid and granted her the authority to waive her mother’s right to use the court system to resolve any claims involving the nursing home. In so holding, the court rejected the plaintiff’s arguments that the grant of authority in the power of attorney document did not extend to the waiver of constitutional rights, that the agreement was too broad to be enforced, and that it was against public policy.

Arbitration agreements are seen differently by each court. While some courts favor arbitration, others view it as suspect in that it confers an unfair advantage to the nursing home facility. In fact, other courts across the country have come to opposite conclusions in cases with very similar facts. Ultimately, the determination of whether an arbitration agreement is enforceable will come down to the specific facts of the case and the governing laws in that jurisdiction.

Has Your Loved One Suffered Harm in a Maryland Nursing Home?

If you have a loved one in a Maryland nursing home, and you believe that they may have suffered abuse or neglect at the hands of their caretakers, you may be entitled to monetary compensation through a Maryland nursing home negligence lawsuit. The skilled Maryland personal injury attorneys at the law firm of Lebowitz & Mzhen Personal Injury Lawyers have extensive experience assisting nursing home residents and their family members with pursuing the compensation they deserve from negligent and abusive nursing home employees. Call 410-654-3600 to schedule a free consultation with an attorney to discuss your case today.

More Blog Posts:

Court Upholds Jury’s Decision to Award Punitive Damages in Nursing Home Case, Maryland Nursing Home Lawyer Blog, published October 13, 2017.

Pre-Trial Discovery in Maryland Nursing Home Cases, Maryland Nursing Home Lawyer Blog, published October 6, 2017.

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