Maryland Courts May Set Aside Arbitration Agreements for Fear of Inconsistent Rulings

Generally, when a nursing home resident enters a facility, the nursing home administration asks the resident (or the loved one accompanying them) to sign an arbitration agreement. If valid, arbitration agreements require the resident to resolve any cases that arise between the parties through arbitration. However, when a Maryland nursing home resident is the victim of abuse or neglect, there are frequently several parties – often the resident’s children – who may pursue a claim against the facility. This can complicate the effectiveness of arbitration, as shown by a recent state appellate decision.

According to the court’s opinion, a son helped his mother get admitted to a nursing home after a shoulder injury. Upon admission, the woman was confused and could not sign any paperwork due to her injury. Thus, her son signed the pre-admission paperwork, including an arbitration agreement.

While in the facility’s care, the woman passed away due to what appeared to have been nursing home neglect. The woman’s son, as well as her other children, filed a wrongful death case against the nursing home. The nursing home objected to the lawsuit being filed in court, pointing to the arbitration agreement signed by the woman’s son.

The woman’s son argued that he did not sign the form as his mother’s authorized agent, and that it should not bind him from pursuing a claim in court. The court rejected the son’s argument, finding that even if he was not her agent, he agreed to arbitrate any claims as his mother’s successor in interest. Thus, the court determined that the arbitration agreement was binding against the son.

The court, however, did not order the case proceed to arbitration because the arbitration agreement did not bind the woman’s other children. The court explained that none of the other children signed the arbitration agreement, and thus, their claims could not be wrapped into arbitration. Instead, the court concluded that none of the claims should proceed to arbitration because it may result in “conflicting rulings on common issues of law and fact.”

In so holding, the court explained that the woman’s other children could only be bound to arbitrate their claims if the son was acting as his mother’s agent when he executed the arbitration agreement. However, the court reasoned that the burden to prove that the woman’s son was acting as an agent rested with the nursing home, which failed to bring forward any evidence indicating that to be the case. For this reason, the court held that all of the woman’s children’s claims should proceed to trial together.

Is Your Loved One in a Maryland Nursing Home?

If you have a loved one in a Maryland nursing home and are concerned about their safety, contact a dedicated Maryland injury lawyer to discuss your options. At Lebowitz & Mzhen, LLC, we handle nursing home abuse and neglect cases across Maryland, Virginia, and Washington, D.C. Our experienced team of nursing home advocates helps make the process as smooth as possible. To learn more about how we can help you pursue a claim for compensation, call 410-654-3600 today.

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