The Severability of Arbitration Agreements in Maryland Nursing Home Abuse Cases

Every year, more and more Maryland residents are moving into nursing homes. As the population ages and life expectancy rises, nursing homes are supposed to provide a safe environment for those who can no longer care for themselves. Unfortunately, however, instances of nursing home abuse and neglect still occur in Maryland facilities and can result in serious injuries or even death for the residents. Acknowledging the pain and suffering these incidents can cause, Maryland state law allows injured victims or their families to sue a negligent nursing home to recover for their injuries. However, what some residents might not realize is that they may sign away their right to sue when signing the initial agreement forms with the nursing home.

Arbitration agreements are common among nursing home agreements, and oftentimes are signed without the resident even reading or understanding what they say. When signed, arbitration agreements can prevent a resident from suing the nursing home in court. If there is a dispute, the resident is forced to settle it through a confidential arbitration process, with no ability to appeal. Nursing homes prefer arbitration because it is faster, cheaper, and the proceedings are confidential, meaning they are less likely to suffer reputational harm. However, most residents are shocked to find out they signed away their right to a day in court.

Sometimes, injured residents who hope to sue a nursing home may attempt to invalidate their contract with the nursing home as a whole. Their strategy is that if the contract as a whole is invalid, then the arbitration agreement is as well. However, that strategy does not always work because a court might find that different clauses in the contract are severable, meaning that they are enforceable on their own.

For an example that highlights this, take a recent state appellate case. According to the court’s written opinion, the plaintiff was trying to sue the defendant nursing home for negligence and wrongful death, even though there was a signed arbitration agreement. Another part of their contract—the section on damages—prescribed damages in such a way that ran counter to state law, meaning the section would be invalidated. However, instead of invalidating the entire contract as the plaintiffs requested, the court found that the invalid section of the contract could be severed from the rest, such that the rest of the contract could still be enforced. This included the arbitration agreement, meaning the plaintiff’s suit had to be dismissed and pursued through arbitration instead.

Contact a Maryland Nursing Home Abuse Lawyer

If you or someone you love has recently been injured, neglected, or abused while in a Maryland nursing home, you may be entitled to financial compensation. Contact the personal injury law firm of Lebowitz & Mzhen, Personal Injury Lawyers today to speak with an experienced nursing home abuse lawyer and discuss your options. With years of experience representing Maryland clients, we are considered authorities in personal injury law and have secured over $55 million for our clients. To learn more, call us risk-free today at 800-654-1949, or fill out our online form.

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