The federal government has issued a new rule that guarantees patients and their families the right to sue nursing homes and other long-term care facilities. This is huge for victims of abuse, neglect and negligence by these facilities, which have increasingly forced patients to sign mandatory arbitration agreements upon admission.
These contracts strip patients and/ or their legal representatives of the right to have their injury and wrongful death claims heard by a judge and jury. Instead, they are forced to have the dispute weighed via arbitration, which is handled either by a single individual or a panel. It’s done in secret. The results often are not favorable to plaintiffs. Even when damages are awarded, the amounts are often far less than what plaintiffs might expect at trial or even in a settlement, given that nursing homes must account for public scrutiny of their actions (or inaction) and level of care and competence.
The new rule, handed down by the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services (CMS) (a division of the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services) prohibits this so-called binding arbitration clause in nursing home contracts for any facility that receives money from Medicaid or Medicare. That is pretty much all of them. Continue reading →