Florida courts have been increasingly allowing nursing home negligence lawsuits to go to trial, despite the existence of nursing home arbitration agreements. Defendant nursing homes are looking to compel plaintiffs to resolve their dispute via arbitration, where outcomes are private and tend to favor the facility.
The grounds on which a court may find an agreement unenforceable usually involve whether the agreement is “unconscionable.” That means the contract is so one-sided, it’s unfair to one party and violates public policy. It’s the kind of contract that leaves one party with no real, meaningful choice and typically arises due to the power imbalance between the two parties. So many of these nursing home arbitration agreements are signed by vulnerable patients or their loved ones upon admission – sometimes as a condition to admission. A contract can be unconscionable if there is:
- Undue influence;
- Unequal bargaining power;
- Unfair surprise.
Such an agreement may also be unenforceable if the person who signed it did not have the capacity or authority to do so. Elderly adults with dementia may not have the mental capacity to enter into legal agreements, but if their relatives are not expressly designated as their legal representative, they may not be able to legally sign on their loved one’s behalf. Continue reading →