Generally, when two parties sign an arbitration agreement, they must resolve their claims out of court through the arbitration process. Thus, by signing an arbitration agreement, the resident waives the right to sue the facility in court. Of course, the parties must voluntarily consent to arbitration through an agreement or otherwise. This means that in a Maryland nursing home case, the person bringing the claim must have signed, or be bound by, an arbitration agreement with the facility.
One state’s highest court recently ruled that a family member could not file a wrongful death claim against a nursing home where the resident had an enforceable arbitration agreement with the facility. In that case, a resident’s daughter had power of attorney for her mother. The daughter signed an arbitration agreement for her mother when her mother was admitted to the facility in 2013. Her mother developed bed sores and died after undergoing surgery for the sores. The daughter filed a wrongful death suit against the facility, but the facility argued the claim had to be resolved through arbitration.
The issue in the case was whether the arbitration agreement was enforceable against a family member filing a wrongful death claim. The court found that based on the state’s statute, the state’s interpretation of wrongful death claims, and the decisions of other state courts, the arbitration agreement was enforceable. The court ruled that the state’s wrongful death statute did not supersede the arbitration agreements signed by the residents, and that a resident’s agreement to arbitrate extends to their family members in a wrongful death claim.
Many states have decided that a wrongful death claim is derivative and dependent on the right of the decedent to maintain a claim for injury. In these cases, there is no independent cause of action for the beneficiaries. However, some states have found a wrongful death claim is an independent cause of action.
Maryland courts have found that although arbitration agreements are generally enforceable, a nursing home resident must grant the person who signs the agreement the authority to make health care decisions on the resident’s behalf. The person who signs the contract must have actual or apparent agency to sign such a contract in order for it to be enforceable. There are several bases that could render an agreement unenforceable, and whether an arbitration agreement is enforceable is generally heavily fact-specific.
Contact a Maryland Nursing Home Attorney
If your loved one has been injured while staying at a Maryland nursing home, contact an attorney to discuss your claim as soon as possible. Unfortunately, many nursing homes in Maryland are not properly equipped to take care of their residents and many suffer from abuse and neglect. The attorneys at Lebowitz and Mzhen, Personal Injury Lawyers, will gladly assist in evaluating your Maryland nursing home claim. Our attorneys know how to properly handle a claim against a nursing home for the poor treatment of your loved one. Contact us at 1-800-654-1949 or through our online form for a free, no-obligation consultation.