Mandatory Binding Arbitration Clauses in LTC Facility Contracts
Many long-term care (LTC) facilities or nursing homes require that patients and/or their families sign mandatory arbitration agreements upon the patient's admission. These agreements are binding and irrevocable even if the person signing did not understand what the agreement bound them to. Many of the agreements also include wording that binds the family or heirs of the patient to the contract as well. These arbitration clauses are for the defense of injurious or poor treatment on the part of the facility. The arbitration will be used by the patient (or their family on their behalf) for all claims involving disputes, injury, or loss from care rendered (or lack thereof). The ways that mandatory binding arbitration can hurt patients and the public in general:
- Poor treatment or abuse by a facility goes unreported as the arbitration agreement also locks the patient and family into a gag order in case of a settlement or payout for gross negligence or injury. The public may never discover which facilities are committing heinous abuse and mistreatment of patients.
- State authorities cannot shut down substandard facilities as nothing has been reported against them. Arbitration clauses give nursing homes the benefit of little public oversight.
- Patient waves their (7th amendment) rights to a jury trial in case of harm or injury- it will be settled through arbitration only.
- Patients wave their right to an appeal. Arbitration is binding, and once a decision is made, that is the end of it.
- Damages for injuries are often capped in arbitration. This can mean that far less money is paid to victims of injuries than would have been obtained through litigation.
- The LTC facility chooses who will arbitrate a dispute. It will likely be someone who has settled cases for the facility before. Or someone who has settled cases very much for the benefit of LTC facilities. They can also choose to have the arbitration someplace distant that a patient or their family would have difficulty getting to either physically or financially.
It becomes clear very quickly that mandatory arbitration agreements are for the sole benefit of the LTC facility. Some states have tried to implement legislation that protects citizens against this practice by LTC facilities. The state laws do not trump federal law protecting arbitration agreements. The best hope at present is in state laws enacted to require arbitration companies to disclose the outcomes of cases they have handled. This will bring to light records of LTC facilities that have harmed patients.
If you suspect that you or a loved one have suffered damages as a result of an LTC and/or its mandatory binding arbitration, then you may be eligible for damages. Contact the Sweeney Law Firm and let our experts review the facts to see if you have a case. There is no cost for representation unless a settlement or cash recovery is made on your behalf.