Maryland Arbitration Agreements Must Be Understood to Be Enforceable

The validity and enforceability of arbitration agreements have recently become very important issues in Maryland nursing home abuse and neglect cases. Typically, these agreements are contained in the pre-admission paperwork that a resident or their loved one is asked to sign before the resident is admitted. Needless to say, this is a very stressful and emotional time, and prospective residents and their family members may not always have a full appreciation for the rights they give up by signing an arbitration agreement.

As a general rule, courts will enforce an arbitration agreement as long as it is valid and executed correctly. One crucial question that courts will ask when determining the validity of an arbitration agreement is whether both parties knew what they agreed to when they entered into the agreement. A recent article discusses a case in which an arbitration agreement did not bind a nursing home resident because the contract was signed by her son, who did not speak English.

Evidently, back in 2017, an 86-year-old woman was admitted to the defendant nursing home after a left-knee replacement surgery. Because of her age and frailty, the woman was identified as a high-risk patient. During her stay at the defendant nursing home, she claimed that a nurse at the facility “recklessly pushed” her wheelchair into a bathroom door, causing her to break her patella.

The woman’s family filed a personal injury claim against the nursing home, and the nursing home sought to resolve the claim through arbitration. As it turns out, the woman’s son was the one who signed the pre-admission paperwork on behalf of his mother. However, the son only spoke Farsi, and there was no indication that the nursing home admission officer who presented the man with the paperwork spoke Farsi.

The nursing home responded by presenting evidence indicating that the elderly woman and her son had a conversation about the arbitration clause before he signed it. The facility also argued that the son never told them that he did not have his mother’s authority to sign the paperwork, and that the facility relied on this implied assertion when admitting his mother.

The court determined that the family’s case against the nursing home did not need to proceed through arbitration because the nursing home was unable to establish that the agreement was enforceable. The court’s decision hinged on the fact that the woman’s son did not speak English and could not have understood the nursing home admission officer’s question regarding whether he had authority to sign on behalf of the prospective resident.

Is Your Loved One at Risk?

If you have a loved one in a Maryland nursing home, and you believe that they are not receiving the treatment that they need and deserve, contact the dedicated Maryland nursing home abuse and neglect attorneys at the law firm of Lebowitz & Mzhen, LLC. At Lebowitz & Mzhen, we have decades of experience representing nursing home residents and their family members in cases against negligent and abusive facilities. To learn more, call 410-654-3600 to schedule a free consultation today.

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