Florida Nursing Home Slow to Respond to Hurricane Irma
The Rehabilitation Center at Hollywood Hills didn't lose power during the storm. But it did lose its air conditioning, leaving residents in sweltering heat. Three of the victims were found dead inside the center, and five others died after they were evacuated. There are many lingering questions, including why the residents weren't moved immediately to an air-conditioned hospital that is right across the street. There is also a criminal investigation ongoing in Florida that is looking into why the Rehabilitation Center acted as it did.
Naturally, the families of these victims are gearing up for medical malpractice and other civil lawsuits. As the investigation unfolds, the center could have one way to lessen or avoid accountability. Almost all nursing homes require residents to sign away their right to sue, and instead enter private arbitration. The Obama administration issued a new rule that would outlaw forced arbitration clauses for nursing home residents. This would make it easier for nursing home victims to bring legal action in court. However, with the new Trump administration looking to end Obama’s new rule permanently, the issue is now tied up in the court system.
We have gone over forced arbitration clauses in previous blog entries in great detail. Ultimately, with these forced arbitration clauses, the balance of power shifts to the large company (the nursing home) as opposed to the patient. The arbitration system takes the case out of court, and it sends it to a private corporate dispute tribunal. The nursing home picks the entity, and picks a private arbitration company who's going to pick who the arbitrator is. These arbitrators are encouraged to rule in favor of the nursing home because they rely on nursing homes for repeat arbitration assignments. Forced nursing home arbitration agreements almost always result in an injustice to the nursing home resident or their family.