Proposed Legislation Would Ban Arbitration Agreements in Nursing Home Contracts in Maryland and Elsewhere

Abuse and neglect are serious problems in Maryland nursing homes, and incidents can lead to physical and psychological injuries, and even premature death. Maryland law allows victims or their families to file lawsuits against negligent nursing homes when incidents occur, but many residents may be waiving that right without knowing it.

The use of mandatory arbitration agreements in nursing home contracts forces an injured resident to settle disputes with the nursing home through a private and confidential arbitration process, rather than in court. According to a recent news report, last month, two Congressional representatives introduced a bill that would ban nursing homes from requiring or asking residents to enter into mandatory arbitration agreements when moving into a home.

The use of arbitration by nursing homes has been a hotly debated topic. Advocates say that the process is speedier and less costly for abuse and neglect victims, while still allowing them a chance to receive the same financial compensation and other remedies available in court. Critics, on the other hand, claim that mandatory arbitration forces victims to give up their right to a day in court, allows negligent nursing homes to get away with abuse without hurting their reputation, and is unfairly biased against victims, especially since the nursing homes are repeat players who can form relationships with arbitrators.

The Fairness in Nursing Home Arbitration Act, introduced by Representatives Linda Sánchez of California and Jan Schakowsky of Illinois, would take the side of critics, prohibiting nursing homes from requiring arbitration agreements as a part of a resident’s contract. The Obama administration took this position in 2016, instituting a ban on arbitration in nursing homes. Earlier this year, the Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services reversed this ban, and the proposed legislation seeks to resurrect it.

In a statement released with her announcement of the bill, Representative Sánchez discussed her experience when moving her father into a nursing home. Like many Maryland residents searching for nursing homes for their loved ones, Sánchez and her family focused on the services offered by the home and the quality of care, rather than the language in the contract. Her bill would seek to ensure that families such as hers are not forced into arbitration without fully realizing the implications of what that means, should a tragic case of abuse occur.

The bill, if passed, would protect Maryland residents’ right to bring a civil lawsuit against a nursing home if they or their loved ones experience abuse or neglect. When choosing a nursing home, Maryland families could rest assured that they can focus on important factors such as quality, staffing, amenities, services, and location, and know that they are not giving up important rights by choosing a specific home.

Call a Nursing Home Abuse Attorney

If you are considering filing a case against a Maryland nursing home for abuse or neglect, contact Lebowitz & Mzhen, Personal Injury Lawyers. Our attorneys have decades of experience representing Maryland clients against nursing homes, and we seek to level the playing field against them. Since we have an extensive knowledge of the barriers that nursing home abuse plaintiffs might face and how to overcome them, you can trust that your case is in good hands with us. To learn more and to schedule a free initial consultation to discuss your case, contact us today at 800-654-1949.

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