These days, many Maryland nursing home admission agreements often include arbitration contracts or clauses, which require certain claims against the nursing facility to be resolved through arbitration. However, under some circumstances, such agreements may not be enforceable. In one recent case, a plaintiff claimed that the arbitration agreement was not enforceable because the agreement was unconscionable.
In that case, a nursing home resident died in the facility and her husband filed a wrongful death claim against the nursing facility. The husband alleged that the nursing home’s staff negligently allowed his wife to fall multiple times, which ultimately led to her death. The facility filed a motion to compel arbitration based on an arbitration agreement that was signed between the resident and the facility. The husband claimed that the arbitration agreement was unconscionable and could not be enforced.
In that case, there was a signed arbitration agreement, which was separate from the admission agreement. The heading on the cover page read, “EXPLANATION OF BINDING ARBITRATION AGREEMENT,” and stated, “PLEASE READ CAREFULLY.” The cover page of the arbitration agreement stated that the agreement was “voluntary and not a condition for admission” and that the resident could consult with an attorney before signing the agreement. The agreement also stated that the resident could withdraw her consent within thirty days of signing. The resident could do this by writing “CANCELLED” on the agreement and mailing it to the facility. The resident and her husband signed the arbitration agreement and did not withdraw consent within 30 days.
The court found that the agreement was not unconscionable, noting that signing the agreement was not a condition of admission and could have been cancelled within thirty days of execution. The cover page explaining the agreement was also printed in large print and the husband initialed the page, indicating that he had read it. Therefore, the court dismissed the case, finding that the case had to be resolved in arbitration.
The Doctrine of Unconscionability
A court can invalidate a contract, including a nursing home arbitration clause, if it finds the agreement is unconscionable. That means that the contract is so unfair or unreasonable to one party that the contract is deemed unenforceable. A contract may be procedurally and substantively unconscionable. Under Maryland law, procedural unconscionability has to do with the formation of the contract, such as when small print is used or the language is unclear. Substantive unconscionability has to do with the terms of the contract that are unreasonably favorable to one party.
Contact a Nursing Home Attorney
If you or your loved one signed an arbitration agreement with a nursing facility, contact a Maryland nursing home attorney to discuss your claim. At Lebowitz & Mzhen, LLC, we have decades of experience representing victims throughout Maryland, Virginia, and Washington, D.C. Our attorneys approach each case with empathy and professionalism, and provide clients with the attention they deserve. Nursing home residents are entitled to proper care, and a nursing home attorney can help you determine whether to pursue a claim against the facility. Contact us at 1-800-654-1949 or 410-654-3600, or via our online form to set up a free consultation.
More Blog Posts:
Study Reveals Dangers of Unlicensed Care Facilities, Maryland Nursing Home Lawyer Blog, published August 31, 2018.
Allegations of Abuse in Maryland Nursing Homes, Maryland Nursing Home Lawyer Blog, published September 7, 2018.
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