Nursing homes in South Carolina and elsewhere are increasing their use of mandatory arbitration in nursing home contracts to protect them in negligence and abuse cases. These clauses force the injured and their families to take their case to an arbitrator even when a loved one is seriously injured or dies. Nursing home corporations that slip arbitration clauses into the fine print of admission agreements frequently fail to explain the clauses and force their elderly residents to sign in order to be admitted into the facility. The decision to place a family member in a nursing facility is a difficult and sometimes urgent choice. These agreements prey on families when they are most vulnerable and in most need of help.
When a Texas woman had to enroll her elderly grandmother into a nursing home she did not know that she was signing an arbitration agreement at that time. When she later filed a negligence claim against the home for her grandmother’s broken leg, she then learned about the arbitration clause. The nursing home did not explain arbitration to her at any time prior to her filing her case in court. After the claim was filed on behalf of the elderly nursing home resident, the home then attempted to enforce its arbitration clause. The plaintiff then settled her case knowing the nursing home intended to enforce the arbitration clause and take the case to the Texas Supreme Court if necessary.
The Fairness in Nursing Home Arbitration Act, introduced by U.S. Senators Mel Martinez (R-FL) and Herb Kohl (D-WI) in April of this year, would protect families from mandatory arbitration by ensuring that arbitration is voluntary and agreements to arbitrate occur only after a dispute has occurred.
“Negligent nursing home corporations should not be able to hide behind arbitration clauses to avoid being held accountable for wrongdoing,” said American Association for Justice member Ken Connor. “Corporations who use and enforce these agreements are putting their profit margins above the health and safety of America’s seniors.”
Source: American Association for Justice