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Tuesday, February 01, 2011

Beware of Nursing Home Arbitration Agreements

Nursing Home Arbitration Agreements are something to pay close attention to when entering a nursing home or assisted living facility.  Many residents sign these without a second thought, but some  commentators characterize these contracts as an "incredible disservice" to nursing home residents and their families.

Why are these considered a "disservice"? Well, some would say these arbitration clauses are often "buried" within 20, 30, or even 40 pages of legalese text, not unlike that which might be seen when buying a car. You might say that this can make it difficult to understand the full terms of the contract.

In a 2009 case, Hayes v. Oakridge Home, the Hayes family alleged that Mrs. Hayes was a victim of negligence, as she suffered serious injuries when she fell from a wheelchair while at a nursing home.  The nursing home produced the arbitration agreement indicating that Mrs. Hayes had agreed to forego a lawsuit in favor of binding arbitration.

The family felt that they should not be held to the arbitration clause because:
Hayes lacked any business or contract experience; no one explained the terms of the agreement to Hayes, including the fact that she could alter the agreement; the rescission clause was buried among a myriad of terms, and she was required to fill out numerous other forms at the same time; and there were no alternative sources of supply because finding a quality nursing home is difficult.
Regardless, the court found the clause to be enforceable and the Hayes family did not have the option of following through with the lawsuit in court.

Before you or a loved one signs anything, make sure to read it closely.  If you are not comfortable with agreeing to take any complaints or disputes to arbitration rather than court, ask them to strike the arbitration agreement clause, or speak to an elder law attorney before signing.
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