The United States Constitution guarantees all citizens equal access to our court system. However, courts have repeatedly held that the right of access to the court system, like many other important rights, can be waived. In theory, by signing an arbitration agreement a person gives up their right to file any future claim in the court system and agrees to resolve the claim through binding arbitration.
Arbitration clauses are used in many situations, including employment contracts, cell phone contracts, and, of course, nursing home contracts. However, there is a serious concern that those who are asked to sign an arbitration agreement – and, in the process, give up fundamental constitutional rights – do so unknowingly. Indeed, it is not uncommon for the victim of Maryland nursing home abuse to file a claim, only to learn for the first time that they must resolve the claim through arbitration
Despite the important rights that a person gives up when agreeing to arbitration, too often, arbitration clauses consist of a few paragraphs in a much longer contract. These contracts are usually written in small print and, at first glance, would seem to be unimportant. Thus, when consumers, nursing home residents, or employees are presented with these lengthy documents, they frequently overlook the arbitration clause, or at least fail to fully comprehend the importance of the document that they have just been asked to sign.
Based on these concerns, lawmakers have recently introduced the Forced Arbitration Injustice Repeal (FAIR) Act (the “Act”). According to a local industry news source, the bill was introduced by two U.S. Democratic representatives from Georgia and Connecticut, and is designed to defend and re-empower consumers, employees and nursing home residents. If the bill becomes law, it will prohibit arbitration clauses in employment, consumer, and civil rights cases. This would include arbitration clauses that are currently contained in nursing home pre-admission contracts.
While the Act would eliminate arbitration clauses in contracts that were signed at the point of purchase, it would still allow for a claimant to agree to arbitration after an incident arose. For example, if a Maryland nursing home resident is injured due to the alleged negligence of staff members, the nursing home would have the opportunity to discuss the possibility of arbitration with the resident after the incident but before a case was officially filed. Lawmakers believe that nursing home residents and their families would better understand the rights they are giving up, and the impact that may have on their claim, if they were presented with the arbitration option after a claim arose.
Has Your Loved One Suffered in a Maryland Nursing Home?
If you have a loved one in a Maryland nursing home, and you believe that they have not received the treatment, respect, and care that they deserve, contact the dedicated Maryland nursing home abuse and neglect attorneys at Lebowitz & Mzhen, LLC. At Lebowitz & Mzhen, we proudly represent nursing home residents and their families in claims against abusive and negligent nursing homes and their staff members. To learn more about how our dedicated team of Maryland personal injury lawyers can help you pursue a claim for compensation, call 410-654-3600 to schedule a free consultation today.