Nursing home and long term care facilities throughout the United States frequently rely on arbitration clauses as part of their admission procedures. Arbitration clauses provide the contracting parties a way to resolve disputes without involving the court system. Although, there are some benefits to these clauses, most Florida nursing homes design the agreements to benefit themselves and not the abuse victim or their family.
On its face, arbitration is typically faster and less costly than litigation; however, there are many potential drawbacks associated with these agreements. Arbitration agreements are generally mandatory, and residents often have no choice but to agree if they wish to be admitted to the facility. Further, signing a mandatory agreement often results in the resident giving up their Seventh Amendment right to a jury trial. Additionally, many usual rules of evidence do not apply in these proceedings, and despite being neutral, many arbitrators work to the benefit of the nursing home. Finally, disputes regarding these agreements often result in lengthy legal proceedings, precisely what the clause was designed to avoid.
For example, in a recent opinion, a Florida appellate court reversed a lower court’s ruling and found that a nursing home could compel a plaintiff to arbitrate their lawsuit. In that case, a husband executed a voluntary arbitration agreement on behalf of his wife before her admission to the nursing home. The arbitration agreement included various clauses, including a limitation on damages and a term that if any part of the contract was found to be invalid, then only the unenforceable term would be severed from the agreement.
After his wife died at the facility, the man filed several claims against the nursing home, including negligence and wrongful death. The nursing home tried to compel arbitration, but the plaintiff argued that the agreement violated public policy because it included two provisions undermining the plaintiff’s remedies. The defendants cited the severability clauses, but the plaintiff contended that the two terms were the essence of the agreement and could not be severed. The court dismissed the plaintiff’s argument that “when viewed jointly,” the two clauses were the heart of the agreement. They reasoned that courts must honor the intent and rights manifested by the language of the agreement. Therefore, because the plaintiff could not establish why the plain meaning of the provisions should not be enforced, the arbitration agreement, without the offending clauses, should be effectuated.
Have You or a Loved One Been Harmed by a Florida Nursing Home?
If you or someone you know has suffered injuries or death as a resident in a Florida nursing home, you should contact the attorneys at the Law Offices of Robert Dixon. The Florida injury attorneys at our office understand the life-altering and traumatizing effects that nursing home abuse can have on an individual and their loved ones. Our attorneys have successfully represented nursing home abuse victims in their claims against negligent facilities, and have recovered substantial compensation on their behalf. These cases are often complicated because of the various agreements that residents are required to agree to upon admission, but we have the skills and tools to dissect these agreements to determine and refute their validity. We continue to serve clients through the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic. Contact our office at 877-499-4878 to schedule a free consultation with one of our attorneys.