Houston Arbitration and Nursing Home AbuseAn increasing number of nursing home contracts include a clause stating that any dispute arising between the patient and the nursing home must be settled by either a single arbitrator or a panel of arbitrators (a tribunal). By mandating that disputes be settled through binding arbitration, these clauses essentially deny patients the right to file a lawsuit against their nursing homes, even in instances of nursing home abuse. This does not mean necessarily that arbitration will work against abuse victims or in favor of nursing homes; however, it does eliminate the possibility of presenting a case before a jury of one’s peers.
There are several fundamental differences between arbitration and a court trial. For example, arbitration is private, meaning that disputes and their outcomes will not be accessible via public records. In this respect, arbitration can favor nursing homes as it allows them to protect their reputations. It also differs in that, in the vast majority of cases, the decisions made by the arbitrators are final and binding; there is no avenue for appeal, unlike in the public courts. On the other hand, cases submitted to arbitration are often settled more quickly than claims filed through the court system, and certain costs may be reduced.
If an elderly member of your family has been the victim of nursing home abuse, it is imperative that you seek the counsel of an experienced nursing home abuse attorney. Only by understanding the legal options available to you and your loved one can you make the best possible decisions. Even if your loved one is subject to a contract with a binding arbitration clause, the enforceability of that clause may be questionable.
Some states uphold arbitration clauses without exception; however, others have found arbitration clauses unenforceable in certain cases. Notably, in January 2013, the West Virginia Supreme Court upheld the ruling of a circuit court that the arbitration clause in a nursing home contract prevented the child of a deceased nursing home resident from filing a wrongful death claim. The circuit court had found that a surrogate could be appointed by a physician to make medical decisions on behalf of someone incapable of doing so for himself or herself; however, a surrogate could not waive that person’s constitutional right to a trial by jury. The wrongful death attorney was allowed to proceed with the lawsuit against the nursing home.
The matter of who signs the nursing home contract is just one issue that could impact its enforceability or potential litigation. At the law firm of Rosen & Spears in Houston, arbitration clauses and nursing home contracts are routinely evaluated by our nursing home abuse attorneys, and we would be pleased to answer any questions you have about the enforceability of arbitration clauses. Even if you live in a state that has historically upheld the enforceability of such clauses, we urge you to consult with a qualified attorney in order to ensure that the rights of your elderly loved one are properly protected.
For further information about nursing home contracts and mandatory arbitration clauses, please contact the law firm of Rosen & Spears today.
Tagged with: Nursing Home Abuse Personal Injury Wrongful Death