The admissions paperwork required of a new nursing home patient is substantial and sometimes overwhelming. There are reams of medical forms, releases of information and waivers. It’s a stressful time, so many new patients and/ or family members go through the motions of just getting through it all. What many might not realize is that tucked in there somewhere is probably a form known as an arbitration agreement. By signing that agreement the patient and/or patient representatives agree to forego the right to a jury trial if a dispute later arises between the patient/ representatives and the nursing home. This includes disputes regarding allegations of nursing home abuse, neglect or negligence.
Signing over that right is a big deal because arbitration is usually less favorable to patients on many fronts. That’s why so many nursing home abuse attorneys will vehemently argue that even if there is an arbitration agreement, it’s not enforceable for one reason or another. It requires an injury lawyer or wrongful death attorney who is also well-versed in contract law. These are questions you need to ask of any lawyer with whom you’re consulting and considering to hire.
In a recent case out of West Virginia, the state supreme court ruled in AMFM LLC v. Shanklin that an arbitration agreement signed by the daughter of a patient could be enforced – despite daughter’s protests that she did not have actual authority to enter into the agreement because she held only the alternate durable power of attorney for her mother; her brother was actually the one with primary durable powers of attorney. Although the trial court denied the nursing home’s motion to dismiss on these grounds, the state supreme court reversed. Continue reading →