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Nicoletti Walker Law Group March 16, 2016

Many people do not realize just how dangerous nursing homes can be, not just due to potential neglect of the residents, but due to the contracts they have residents and their families sign before staying there. Sadly, one family’s tragedy was recently highlighted by the New York Times in order to bring attention to this important issue; specifically, what happens if a loved one is injured due to the negligence of the nursing home, but the family signed a contract with the nursing home that contained a clause mandating that any dispute must be subject to private arbitration—even when something as horrifying as wrongful death took place due to the home’s neglect?

The New York Times has covered this issue previously, and how it has essentially resulted in a privatization of the entire justice system. This is what makes this particular case highlighted by the New York Times so monumental, as it could turn into a pivotal, precedential case concerning whether nursing homes can continue to insert these arbitration clauses into their contracts, taking away the power of actual judges and juries to hear related neglect cases.

Not Limited to Nursing Homes

Of late, private arbitration clauses have sprung up in contracts of all kinds; while historically, they originated in business-related contracts, they are now expanding into all types of contracts—including those attempting to protect guilty entities from negligence charges. This is especially an issue with nursing homes, as often times, reading and understanding the contracts is left up to the elderly and their families, who do not have legal training and do not necessarily spot these tricky clauses hiding in the fine print.

Some States Fight Back

This has become such an issue that 16 states requested that the federal government deny Medicare and Medicaid money to nursing homes that rely on the clauses. This was to try and offset the many cases of neglect, elder abuse, and wrongful death that ended up in arbitration when they really should have been brought before a judge and/or jury.

In this particular case highlighted by the New York Times, where usually judges are helpless to ensure that justice is done if a resident signed a contract that included a mandate to arbitrate any disputes, it’s the first time that a judge has allowed a case to move forward in spite of the family signing this type of contract because a judge in this case found that–although the family member who signed the contract (with the arbitration clause) on behalf of the resident was serving as her health care proxy–the representative did not have the authority to bind the resident to arbitration, specifically, as a health care proxy.

Contact Florida Personal Injury Attorney

Florida is no stranger to negligence cases involving loved ones and nursing homes. Clearwater attorney Mike Walker is dedicated to ensuring that these victims obtain justice. If you or a loved one has been the victim of nursing home neglect, contact the office today for a free consultation so that he can get started helping you.