Last year, the federal Department of Health and Human Services issued a rule that bars any nursing home that receives federal funds from requiring its residents to settle disputes through arbitration, rather than the public court system. For years, nursing homes and assisted living facilities across the country have fallen back on arbitration to settle any legal issues with residents. Once admitted to a nursing home facility, residents are often required to sign a contract that includes an arbitration clause requiring any future disputes to be settled out of court.
Even residents that suffered physical abuse or death were required to arbitrate their claims, rather than file a lawsuit. Further, there were numerous allegations that individuals without the capacity to understand the agreements were nonetheless required to sign them. In light of this well-documented abuse, the federal government moved to prevent nursing homes from barring their residents from suing them.
Earlier this summer, the Trump administration reversed course and proposed lifting the ban on arbitration agreements. Under that proposal, nursing homes would be required to be more forthcoming about arbitration, but they could still require residents to waive their right to sue.
In general, arbitration is cheaper than litigation, provides faster results, and offers parties involved complete privacy. Unfortunately for nursing home residents, it means that no jury will ever hear their case, and they may be limited in their ability to challenge the law applied and the money (if any) awarded. For the nursing homes, the unpleasant details of elder abuse and fraud may be quietly swept under the rug. Studies show that 1 in 3 nursing home residents will be the victim of serious physical, sexual, or verbal abuse.
The attorneys at Keith, Miller, Butler, Schneider, and Pawlik, PLLC, are experienced in handling claims against medical providers and analyzing contracts that require arbitration. We are currently monitoring the status of arbitration agreements for nursing home residents, as well as arbitration requirements in other industries, including the financial sector. If you or a loved one have suffered abuse from a long-term care facility or seem to be locked into an arbitration agreement, please contact one of our attorneys for a case evaluation today.
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