Please consult with a Nursing Home abuse attorney if you are asked to sign an arbitration agreement.
The Seventh Amendment to the Constitution guarantees the right to trial by jury. However, many people unknowingly, or ill-advisedly, waive their Constitutional right to trial by jury when admitting their loved one to a nursing home by signing an arbitration (also known as ADR) agreement.
The majority of my nursing home abuse cases involve representing families whose loved ones have been harmed while living in long-term care facilities. Quite often, the arbitration agreement presents a hurdle to overcome in the search for justice and accountability.
Signing a mother, father or spouse into a nursing home is invariably an emotional, stressful and frightening undertaking. In reality there is not even the slightest resemblance between leaving your mother at a nursing home and a "commercial" transaction to obtain a credit card or new car. You can typically study and ponder a commercial transaction; however, quite often, you are forced to make healthcare decisions without the benefit of substantial reflection or at-length consideration.
Proponents of arbitration will tell you that there are many positive aspects to resolving disputes through a mandatory arbitration. If that is the case, then why must arbitration agreements be executed upon your loved one’s admission to the facility? Using the proponents’ logic, I see no reason why such an agreement cannot be made through the advice of counsel once a claim is presented. Unfortunately, arbitration agreements are executed pre-dispute and almost always signed without the benefit of legal advice.
The best way for a nursing home to protect its bottom line is to provide care consistent with accepted standards of practice. There are many facilities in our state that are nurturing and skilled in providing care. For those that do not follow the rules and cause harm there is no better remedy than justice meted out by the members of the community. Mandatory arbitration locks the doors to the courthouse and benefits wrongdoers, not those wronged.
Again, please consult with an attorney if you are asked to sign an arbitration agreement.