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Arbitration clauses proliferate in nursing home contracts

NewsNursing Home Neglect   March 8, 2016

It’s devastating to learn that a loved one has been abused or neglected in a nursing home setting. But now imagine that when you try to sue the nursing home, you’re told you can’t because you signed a contract that included an arbitration clause. This may sound like a grievous injustice but it’s happening

According to an investigation by The New York Times, hundreds of cases of elder abuse, neglect and wrongful death went to arbitration between 2010 and 2014. And sixteen states and the District of Columbia have urged the federal government to enact legislation that would bar nursing homes that use arbitration clauses from receiving Medicare or Medicaid funding.

So what’s wrong with arbitration? Unlike the normal legal process, which involves a jury and a judge and a public record, arbitration proceedings take place behind closed doors. This means that potential new nursing home residents and their families would not have access to information about a facility’s history of alleged abuse. This lack of transparency could needlessly put a vulnerable individual in harm’s way.

According to the New York Times article, historically courts have sided with nursing homes that had signed arbitration clauses in place when facing allegations of resident abuse. But prosecutors may have more luck arguing that family members do not have the legal standing to agree to arbitration clauses in the first place.

If your loved one has suffered abuse or neglect in a nursing home setting, or you are interested in pursuing a wrongful death claim against a facility, but you believe you may have signed a contract that contained an arbitration clause, don’t give up hope. Collect your paperwork and contact an experienced nursing home abuse and neglect attorney who can help determine your best strategy for seeking justice.