Beware of Arbitration Clauses

Take care when signing the paperwork to place yourself or a loved one in the care of a nursing home. Many contracts contain binding arbitration clauses, which basically say that the facility cannot be taken to court in the event of a dispute. These clauses include disputes regarding care and wrongful death.

Joan Maurer’s father died in agony from a common hernia. For hours, he vomited and screamed, pointing at his swollen stomach. The nursing home he was living in, Lighthouse of Columbia Heights, failed to respond to his pleas for help. Maurer thought that she had a slam dunk case of wrongful death.

Despite the fact that state investigators cited the facility for failure to provide timely medical care, Maurer is still fighting for the chance to hold Lighthouse accountable in a court of law. Attorneys for Lighthouse claim that Maurer forfeited the right to go to court when she signed a wordy contract that contained an arbitration clause if a dispute arose.

Maurer is not alone. Many similar facilities require that residents and their families sign contracts that contain arbitration clauses. However, late last year, a breakthrough federal rule barring the 15,000 long-term care facilities that receive funds from Medicare and Medicaid from requiring that their residents enter into arbitration agreements.

Back in 2010, Maurer was in a rush to get her father admitted to a nursing facility. She claims no one explained the arbitration clauses to her at that time. Instead, when she asked for time to review the agreement with a lawyer, she was told that her father would “lose the apartment” and that it was “take it or leave it.” Maurer’s attorney argued that the contract was signed “under duress” and was therefore invalid.

In Minnesota and across the nation, attorneys are seeking to throw out arbitration clauses, especially in cases where it is evident that the elderly were coerced into signing the documents. Recently, in Kentucky, the Supreme Court refused to enforce the arbitration clauses in three cases.

If you believe that you or a loved one have been the victim of abuse or neglect while staying at a long-term care facility, you may be entitled to compensation. Let the law offices of Schenk Smith fight for you. Call us today.