Placing a beloved family member into a nursing home is emotionally painful. Discovering that they were abused or neglected by the staff of the nursing home is heart wrenching and infuriating. Plaintiffs in nursing home cases want to sue for compensatory and punitive damages on behalf of their loved ones but often run aground in their efforts due a clause called the arbitration agreement.
Arbitration agreements are commonly part of the contract papers signed at the time of admitting the patient to the nursing home. The agreement attempts to force the plaintiff in nursing home neglect and abuse cases into arbitration in lieu of filing a lawsuit. Because the agreement was drawn by the nursing home, the nursing home has the right to select the arbitrator. In these cases they will certainly select an arbitrator that is likely to side with the nursing home, limiting any compensatory and punitive damages. In some cases there are caps written into the arbitration agreement as to the maximum amount of settlement allowed.
Recent Court Rulings Against Arbitration Agreements
Recently the courts have held nursing home arbitration agreements in Florida unenforceable for a number of reasons. In one case, Perry ex rel. Perry v. Sovereign Healthcare of Metro W. 100 So. 3d 146 (Fla. 5th DCA 2012), the daughter of a resident who passed away had signed an arbitration agreement. The decedent’s estate argued that the decedent did not execute the admission paperwork as the responsible party and the person who signed the agreement lacked the authority to sign on behalf of the decedent. There was also no evidence that the resident was incapable of signing.
In another Florida case, Novosett v. Arc Villages, Florida’s 5th Court of Appeals scrapped an arbitration agreement for containing damage caps. Because that part of the agreement was ruled unenforceable, the entire agreement was ruled unenforceable as well.
The best way to avoid the snags of an arbitration agreement is to avoid signing one. Critics of the forced arbitration agreements believe that patient care suffers when the nursing home feels they are protected from financial loss from lawsuits for attributed to neglect or abuse. In addition there is no reputational fallout from arbitration as it is a private matter unlike a civil suit.
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There can be a case made that arbitration can settle matters quickly, free up the courts and reduce the cost of nursing home expenses. The centers for Medicare and Medicaid are currently trying to decide if federal funding should be denied to nursing homes that impose mandatory arbitration agreements.
Anyone who has had a loved one suffer or lose their life due to neglect or abuse in a nursing home should immediately seek the help of an elder abuse attorney. There have been many arbitration agreements in Florida in recent years that the courts have deemed unenforceable or tossed out completely. The experienced attorney will know all of the past cases and rulings and exactly how to maneuver around the pitfalls of the nursing home arbitration agreement. Attempting to win a settlement without the help of a skilled elder abuse attorney would be fruitless.
Dolman Law Group Accident Injury Lawyers, PA has successfully represented many families of elder abuse or neglect victims of nursing homes and assisted living facilities. If you have a loved one who was injured or died do to negligence or abusive behavior contact Dolman Law for a free evaluation of your case. You may be entitled to a large cash award, even if there is a mandatory arbitration agreement. Call 727-415- 6900 today and speak with an attorney.
Dolman Law Group Accident Injury Lawyers, PA
800 North Belcher Road
Clearwater, FL 33765