Arbitration Agreements & Nursing Homes
Nursing homes and other long-term care facilities are often the last choice for concerned family members. Many try to keep their loved one at home by using home health aides or even moving in with them. However, a point comes when even the most committed family member cannot take care of a loved one, and a move to a nursing home is unavailable.
Although you might expect excellent around-the-clock care, many nursing homes in Florida continue to be understaffed and negligent. Whether neglecting or abusing residents, these nursing homes betray the trust of family members who move a loved one into the facility. If you want to sue a nursing home for violating your loved one’s rights, you should realize that an arbitration agreement might stand in your way.
What are Arbitration Agreements?
Arbitration is a form of alternative dispute resolution that has increased in popularity over the past decade. Instead of presenting your case to a judge, you present it to an arbitrator (or a panel of three arbitrators) who act like judges but are often lawyers or former judges. The arbitration panel will decide who wins the case. There are some advantages to arbitration which help explain why it has become so popular:
- The rules can be streamlined, making arbitration faster and less expensive than litigation in court. Nursing homes are always looking to save money, and arbitration can save on legal fees.
- Arbitration is private, so the public cannot find out embarrassing facts about either side. This helps shield the nursing home’s reputation, but it can also benefit a resident who has suffered humiliating abuse.
Arbitration, however, has some serious disadvantages as well, particularly for residents:
- You typically do not have the right to an appeal. Whatever the arbitrator decides is final.
- Large companies often use the same arbitrators over and over, and some people think they are biased in favor of these corporate defendants.
When placing a loved one in a nursing home, you probably signed a contract. One clause might have been an agreement to arbitrate any disputes that arise. Judges enforce these clauses, so any court case you file will be removed to arbitration whether you want to go there or not.
How Can You Get Out of Arbitration?
For a variety of reasons, you might not want to arbitrate a dispute but instead wish to proceed in court. However, to get out of a validly-signed agreement, you will need to assert some contract defense. For example, you might argue:
- You signed the contract under duress.
- The agreement is fraudulent, or fraud was used to induce your signature.
- The arbitration agreement is unconscionable.
These are hard defenses to prove. The fact that you now don’t want to arbitrate does not mean that the agreement is invalid. Instead, you will need high-quality evidence that casts doubt that signing the arbitration agreement was voluntary.
At Bundza & Rodriguez in Daytona Beach, we have extensive experience bringing lawsuits against nursing home and long-term care facilities for abuse and neglect. We are happy to discuss your options, including whether you need to arbitrate. Please schedule your free consultation by calling 386-252-5170 today.