The Enforceability of Arbitration Agreements in Maryland Nursing Home Cases

These days, nursing homes in Maryland routinely incorporate arbitration provisions or agreements into their admission paperwork. People often do not question signing the agreement—until nursing homes try to force them into arbitration later on. Arbitration allows nursing homes to avoid costly litigation in a private decision-making process, generally with no right to appeal. However, an arbitration agreement may not be valid in some cases. A patient may lack the necessary capacity to enter into a contract, the person may have signed under duress, the provision may violate a state, federal, or local law, or the person who signed the agreement may not have had to the legal authority to sign on the resident’s behalf, as in the case below.

Court Invalidates Arbitration Agreement Signed by Resident’s Son

In a recent case before another state’s appeals court, the court invalidated an arbitration agreement that was signed by the resident’s son. In that case, the mother had been a resident of the nursing facility for about a month in 2016. The son signed an admission agreement and an arbitration agreement when his mother was admitted to the nursing facility. The son signed under “Responsible Party.” Under the agreement, Responsible Party was defined as a person with legal authority to sign for the resident, including a legal guardian or an attorney-in-fact.

After the mother left the facility, her daughter filed a lawsuit asserting medical negligence, negligence, breach of the admission agreement, and related claims. The nursing facility filed a motion to compel arbitration, citing the arbitration agreement. The court invalidated the arbitration agreement, finding no agreement had been properly formed.

The court held that there was no evidence and no indication in the agreement that the son had the authority to sign in a representative capacity. There was no evidence the mother was aware of the contract and its provisions. There was also no power of attorney giving the son legal authority at the time the agreement was signed. The court also noted that although the plaintiff asserted a claim for breach of the admission agreement, it did not change the fact that the son did not have the authority to agree to arbitrate on his mother’s behalf. Finally, the court explained that arbitration agreements are enforceable according to their terms, but may still be invalidated based on a contract defense. In this case, because no valid agreement was formed, the arbitration clause could not be enforced.

Contact a Maryland Nursing Home Lawyer

If your loved one has been injured at a Maryland nursing home, contact an experienced nursing home attorney as soon as possible. The Maryland personal injury attorneys at Lebowitz & Mzhen, Personal Injury Lawyers, can guide you through each step of the legal process, from the initial investigation of your case through settlement negotiations and any litigation that becomes necessary. We treat our clients with the personal attention they deserve, taking the time to listen to their unique situations and tailor a plan to their needs. Contact us today at 1-800-654-1949 to set up a free consultation.

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