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Florida Supreme Court Decides Nursing Home Injury Lawsuit is not Bound by Arbitration Agreement

When elderly parents can no longer live independently, many families decide that a nursing home can provide the best care. But what happens when a Florida nursing home endangers its residents by not providing adequate care or not monitoring employees closely enough?

While a lawsuit could be an option for a resident and his or her family, often times an arbitration agreement1  will have been signed as part of the contract between the resident and the nursing home before the resident moves into the facility. This means that the nursing home cannot be sued in a traditional court of law. Instead, the nursing home can only be brought before an arbitrator, who will decide the claim in a private hearing.

The Recent Opinion on Arbitration Agreements and Nursing Homes

A recent Florida Supreme Court decision has weakened the reach of arbitration agreements. In Mendez v. Hampton Court Nursing Center, LLC2, the son of a nursing home resident signed an arbitration agreement with his father’s nursing home when he was arranging for his father’s admission to the facility. While in the care of the nursing home, the father developed an eye infection that eventually required the removal of his left eye. On behalf of the father, the son sued the nursing home, which argued that the arbitration agreement controlled. The trial court agreed and held that the only option for the son and father was to go to arbitration.

The Florida Supreme Court reversed3 as it determined that since the father never agreed to the arbitration clause, he was not bound by it. In reaching its conclusion, the state high court based its decision on the legal concepts of the third-party beneficiary doctrine, agency law, and medical incapacity.

Why Do Arbitration Agreements Matter?

Typically, arbitration agreements are favored by nursing homes. That’s why they include them in the admission contracts they draft. There are advantages and disadvantages to arbitration.

Advantages of arbitration:

  • Typically, arbitrations move faster and are more streamlined.
  • It is a private proceeding, which usually cuts down on the hostility between the parties.
  • Arbitrators (the judges in arbitration proceedings) can be highly-specialized and have an in-depth knowledge of the industry in which the dispute arises.

Disadvantages of arbitration:

  • There are no appeals, except in very specific and hard to prove instances.
  • There is no automatic right to discovery of evidence.
  • Arbitration costs can exceed litigation costs

The results of an arbitration remain private, and precedent is not created for future litigants. It can be hard to know how much you are entitled to because the result of recent arbitration cases is kept secret.

Recognizing Nursing Home Abuse

If you have a loved one residing in a nursing home, it is essential to be familiar with the signs of nursing home abuse. While physical injuries and other outward signs of abuse are clear red flags, it is important to keep in mind that abuse can also cause emotional and psychological trauma as well. Some of the more common signs of nursing home abuse include the following:

Bed sores

Malnutrition

Overmedication

Untreated injuries

Marks left be restraints

Unsanitary conditions

Under medication

Depression and anxiety

Unexplained infections

Fearful behavior

How Can an Attorney Help?

The Clearwater, Florida attorneys at Sibley Dolman Gipe Accident Injury Lawyers, PA can look at your case against a nursing home and determine what your options are, including if there is a binding arbitration agreement in place. Call (727) 451-6900 for more information or to make a consultation appointment.

Sibley Dolman Gipe Accident Injury Lawyers, PA
800 North Belcher Road
Clearwater, FL 33765
(727) 451-6900

Florida Nursing Home Abuse Attorneys

1 https://www.dolmanlaw.com/signed-nursing-home-arbitration-agreement-legal-options/

2 http://www.floridasupremecourt.org/decisions/2016/sc14-1349.pdf

http://www.gainesville.com/news/20160922/ruling-miami-nursing-home-injury-lawsuit-not-bound-for-arbitration