Every time we get into a case against a nursing home for elder abuse, one of the first things we look to is whether or not the patient or their family member signed an arbitration agreement requiring the patient and family to give up the right to a jury trial. The nursing homes include these arbitration agreements as part of the stack of documents that the person is to sign on admittance. Because it is simply “part of the stack,” that agreement invariably gets signed without any understanding that the patient is giving away substantial and significant rights. On the rare occasion where questions are asked about arbitration agreements, the patient is told that this is “standard” and that arbitration will save money over court proceedings.
While an arbitration agreement may be the “standard,” it is not required, nor can the nursing home make this a requirement of admittance. Further, the claim that this will “save money” is true, but only for the nursing home. Arbitration costs often far exceed the cost of going to court. Further, arbitrations are not public, and the nursing home has the ability to bury its most egregious conduct without ever having a chance to reveal it to the light of day.
So, if you are entering into a nursing home or you are taking a loved one to a nursing home, make sure that you look for the arbitration agreement and, again, do not sign that agreement.