It is common for anyone seeking admission into a nursing home to be presented with an arbitration agreement prior to being admitted. These arbitration clauses are often hidden in large paragraphs of small print and are easy to overlook. However, once signed, arbitration clauses often waive important rights and can have a major effect on a party’s ability to file a lawsuit against the nursing home, should anything go wrong in the future.
While a valid arbitration agreement may prevent a victim of nursing home abuse or neglect from using the court system to pursue a case against the at-fault nursing home, not all arbitration agreements are valid. In fact, a series of recent court decisions across the country has indicated courts’ willingness to declare arbitration agreements invalid when they are not signed by the appropriate party, too hidden, or entered into by an incompetent party.
A recent case out of Florida illustrates how courts may choose to invalidate an arbitration agreement when the person signing the contract is not the resident themselves.
The Facts of the Case
After a nursing home resident died from injuries she sustained while under the care of the defendant nursing home, the executor of her estate filed a wrongful death case against the nursing home. In response, the nursing home asked the court to dismiss the case, based on an arbitration agreement that was signed by the deceased resident’s daughter.
At the time when the daughter signed the arbitration agreement, her mother was not competent to make her own decisions and needed assistance. The daughter met with nursing home staff, toured the facility, and then helped get her mother admitted to the facility. During this process, the daughter signed an arbitration agreement that purported to waive her mother’s right to use the court system should any potential claim arise in the future. The daughter signed as a legal guardian and next to her signature indicated that she was a health care proxy for her mother.
The court invalidated the arbitration agreement because the daughter did not have the legal authority to bind her mother or her mother’s estate to arbitration. The court explained that the right to use the court system is one that belonged to the mother, and absent a power of attorney, the daughter was not able to waive her mother’s right. As a result of the case, the deceased resident’s estate will be permitted to proceed through the normal channels with the wrongful death lawsuit.
Do You Have a Loved One in a Maryland Nursing Home?
If you have a loved one in a Maryland nursing home, and you believe that they are not being treated as well as they should be, you may be entitled to monetary compensation through a Maryland nursing home abuse or neglect lawsuit. The skilled injury attorneys at the Maryland-based law firm of Lebowitz & Mzhen Personal Injury Lawyers have extensive experience representing injured and abused residents and their families. We understand that families routinely sign arbitration agreements without fully understanding the rights they are giving up, and we do everything we can to ensure that our clients are afforded every opportunity to use the court system. Call 410-654-3600 today to schedule a free consultation with an attorney to discuss your case.
More Blog Posts:
Sexual Assault in Nursing Homes Is Too Often Slow to Be Reported or Taken Seriously, Maryland Nursing Home Lawyer Blog, published March 10, 2017.
Nursing Homes Must Comply with Mandatory Discovery Requirements or Potentially Face Contempt Charges, Maryland Nursing Home Lawyer Blog, published February 28, 2017.