The Enforceability of Maryland Nursing Home Arbitration Agreements

On several occasions, we have written about arbitration clauses in Maryland nursing home abuse and neglect cases. An arbitration clause is an agreement, typically within a nursing home resident’s contract or the papers required to sign when moving in, that says any disputes that arise will be handled through arbitration rather than through litigation. Arbitration proceedings are confidential and final, and the agreements mean that residents have signed away their right to sue the nursing home in court if they suffer abuse or neglect at their hands. Arbitration tends to be favored by nursing homes because it costs them less, the outcomes tend to be more favorable to the nursing home, and they can avoid bad publicity.

In a recent opinion, a state appellate court considered the validity of arbitration agreements even when the organization listed in the agreement as the arbitrator was no longer hearing cases. The case sheds light on how arbitration issues might play out in Maryland. According to the court’s written opinion, the plaintiff placed her husband in a nursing home and signed an arbitration agreement that all disputes would be solved by arbitration in accordance with procedures from the National Arbitration Forum. However, the National Arbitration Forum decided in 2009 that it would no longer get involved in consumer disputes. So, when the plaintiff’s husband died, and the plaintiff sued the nursing home for negligence and wrongful death, she argued that the contract language requiring arbitration was impossible to comply with, and thus invalid. The district court agreed with her, holding that the case could proceed through the court system as though no arbitration agreement was ever signed.

However, on appeal from the nursing home, the appellate court found that the agreement was enforceable despite the forum being unavailable to arbitrate the dispute, and that the forum-selection language in the agreement was incidental, not central, to the contract. As such, it found that the nursing home did not mean that only the National Arbitration Forum could arbitrate agreements. The plaintiff thus could not sue the nursing home in court, but rather had to go through arbitration with a different arbitrator.

Do You Have Questions for a Maryland Nursing Home Abuse Lawyer?

If you or a loved one have recently been injured due to negligent care or abuse received at a Maryland nursing home, you probably have many questions. What can I do? Whose fault was it? Am I entitled to any remedies? What does my contract with the nursing home mean? Well, Lebowitz & Mzhen, Personal Injury Lawyers, have decades of experience representing clients like you and helping them answer those same questions. Our attorneys pride themselves on providing excellent client representation and will stand up to big nursing homes and corporations to help you pursue the financial compensation you deserve. To learn more, and to schedule a free initial consultation with one of our attorneys, contact us today at 800-654-1949 or by filling out our online form. Calling is risk-free, and we will not charge you for our services unless we successfully get you compensation.

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