On February 22 of this year, the United States Supreme Court will hear arguments in a case that may greatly affect nursing home care in this country. According to one news source, the case considers the legality of arbitration agreements signed by representatives of nursing home residents.
In that case, two nursing home residents died in nursing homes. Their families filed lawsuits against the nursing homes after their deaths, but the nursing homes tried to force the families into arbitration under signed arbitration agreements. The Kentucky Supreme Court previously ruled that nursing home residents had not explicitly allowed their representatives to enter into arbitration agreements, and these agreements were not binding as a result.
The nursing homes in the case argue that states cannot place more of a burden on the creation of arbitration agreements than they would on creating any other contract. Long-term care providers contend the decision “poses a substantial threat to the long-term care industry at a time when demographic trends dictate that provision of long-term care could become increasingly important.” They say the Federal Arbitration Act and federal policy that favors arbitration preempt state laws like Kentucky’s. They argue the FAA was intended to make arbitration agreements equally as enforceable as any other contract, unless there are grounds that invalidate them just as in any other contract.
On the other hand, groups who represent the elderly argue the right to a jury trial is a constitutional right, and a nursing home resident should not be penalized because a representative signed an arbitration agreement that the resident did not explicitly give them permission to sign. Some also warn that corporations are pushing arbitration in order to lower the costs of resolving cases.
Arbitration Agreements in Nursing Homes
Many nursing homes require residents to sign arbitration agreements upon admission. An arbitration agreement requires residents to give up their right to a court hearing and instead have their case resolved through arbitration. Arbitration is a process of settling disputes through a selected arbitrator, and it is generally faster, less expensive, and less formal than court proceedings. However, arbitration carries various risks for nursing home residents and their families because the nursing home selects the forum of its choice. This can lead to unfair results.
Last year, the federal government issued a rule that barred long-term care facilities that receive federal funding from entering into arbitration agreements before a dispute arises. Then, after the rule was issued, a federal judge found the rule was not properly enacted because the federal agency did not have the authority to issue it. The courts are still deciding the legality of such clauses, and the Supreme Court’s upcoming decision will likely have an enormous impact on lawsuits against nursing homes throughout the country.
Discuss Your Nursing Home Claim with a Chicago Lawyer
If you are considering filing a nursing home negligence or medical malpractice claim, the Chicago attorneys at Moll Law Group can help you explore the scope of your options. Our lawyers represent people bringing claims against nursing homes for harming loved ones, including bed sores, burn injuries, choking, clogged breathing tubes, drowning, and falls, as well as other incidents of abuse or negligence. We represent nursing home residents and their families in Naperville, Schaumburg, Wheaton, and communities throughout Cook County. Billions of dollars have been recovered in cases in which we were involved. Call us at 312-462-1700 or contact us through our online form to schedule a free consultation.
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