Court Upholds Nursing Home Arbitration Agreement Despite Failure to Print Language in Bold as Required

A state appellate court recently ruled on a case in which a nursing home’s arbitration agreement failed to strictly comply with the state’s requirements concerning arbitration agreements. In that case, when the patient had moved into the nursing home, she received an admissions packet with forms that included an arbitration agreement. The state’s Health Care Availability Act required that arbitration agreements contain a four-paragraph notice in a particular font size and bold-faced type. In the arbitration agreement on the patient’s form, the language was in the correct font size, but was not printed in bold typeface.

After the patient’s death, her family brought a wrongful death claim against the nursing home. The nursing home moved to compel arbitration based on the arbitration agreement. A trial court and a state appeals court found that the agreement was void because it failed to strictly comply with the Act’s requirements in that the required language was not printed in bold type.

On appeal to the state’s supreme court, however, the court found that the Act only required substantial compliance, not strict compliance. The court also concluded that the agreement in this case substantially complied with the requirements under the Act. Here, the nursing home had printed the relevant language in all capital letters, which the court found substantially satisfied the law’s requirements. The court held that the nursing home brought attention to the text in the same way that bold type would have. Therefore, the nursing home was able to force the family into arbitration to resolve the wrongful death claim against it.

Arbitration Agreements in Maryland Nursing Home Cases

Arbitration is a procedure in which a claim is resolved outside of the court system. Both parties have to agree to participate in arbitration. These days, many agreements contain arbitration clauses providing that any claims or that certain claims must be resolved in arbitration. Nursing Home admission paperwork often includes such clauses, which require that many claims against nursing homes be resolved out of court. Arbitration agreements often protect nursing homes by allowing them to avoid costly litigation and may provide for a more favorable forum for the nursing home.

Not all arbitration clauses are valid or enforceable, however. As shown in this case, some states have consumer protection laws that require nursing homes to bring special attention to arbitration clauses, and failure to comply with those requirements may void the agreement. An agreement also might be unenforceable for other reasons (for example, if a patient lacked the capacity to enter into the agreement when it was signed).

Has Your Loved One Been Injured in a Nursing Home?

If believe you or your loved one has a claim against a Maryland nursing home and the nursing home is trying to force you into arbitration, you may be able to keep the case in court, depending on the circumstances. At Lebowitz & Mzhen Personal Injury Lawyers, we approach each case with empathy and professionalism, and provide you with the attention you deserve. Our trial attorneys have nearly two decades of experience representing victims throughout Maryland and Washington, D.C. Contact us at 1-800-654-1949 or 410-654-3600 or fill out our online form to set up a free consultation.

More Blog Posts:

State’s Push for Stricter Reporting Requirements in Cases of Nursing Home Sexual Abuse, Maryland Nursing Home Lawyer Blog, published June 21, 2018.

Maryland Nursing Home Arbitration Clauses May Be Procedurally or Substantively Invalid, Maryland Nursing Home Lawyer Blog, published July 6, 2018.

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