Court Mandates Enforcement of Arbitration Clause in Recent Nursing Home Case

One of the most hotly debated issues in personal injury law is the enforceability of arbitration contracts in cases against nursing homes and assisted living facilities. These clauses, when enforceable, prevent victims of Virginia nursing home abuse or neglect from filing a complaint in a court of law, and they require that they resolve the claim through binding arbitration.

ContractArbitration in and of itself is not necessarily a bad thing. However, the fact that nursing homes are able to choose the arbitrator who will hear the case leaves many wondering whether the forum is as neutral as it is claimed. There are other problems with arbitration clauses as well. For example, many times, they are buried deep in paragraphs of small text, making it unlikely that someone will see and understand what exactly they are giving up by agreeing to arbitrate their future claims.

For these reasons, courts across the country have expressed a hesitancy to enforce some arbitration clauses. However, a court will enforce arbitration clauses in some cases, especially when the clause is clearly designated, the person signing the agreement was of sound mind, and the clause itself is not substantively against public policy. A recent case illustrates the type of clause that may be upheld by the courts; however, it is important to realize that these cases are decided on a case-by-case basis, and even the most seemingly insignificant difference in facts can result in a different outcome.

The Facts

The plaintiff’s mother died while in the care of the defendant nursing home. Prior to her mother’s admission into the home, the plaintiff’s sister signed a pre-admission contract on behalf of her mother. That contract contained an arbitration clause that was clearly designated as such, which also indicated that agreement was optional.

At the time, the plaintiff’s mother had executed a broadly worded power-of-attorney document in favor of her sister. The document gave the plaintiff’s sister power over almost all of her mother’s affairs, including the right to settle claims and make medical decisions.

When the plaintiff filed a nursing home negligence case against the defendant nursing home, the court granted the nursing home’s motion to dismiss the case based on the arbitration agreement. In so doing, the court noted that the clause was clear, and the plaintiff’s sister had the authority to enter into this type of agreement on behalf of her mother. As a result, the plaintiff will need to resolve the case against the nursing home through arbitration.

Is Your Loved One at Risk?

If you have a loved one in a Virginia nursing home, and you believe that they have experienced abuse or neglect, you may be entitled to monetary compensation through a Virginia personal injury lawsuit. While arbitration agreements prevent some lawsuits from moving forward in the court system, not all arbitration agreements are found to be valid. The dedicated Virginia personal injury and wrongful death attorneys at the law offices of Charles B. Roberts & Associates have the knowledge and experience necessary to invalidate unfair arbitration agreements or those that were not executed properly. Call 703-491-7070 to schedule a free consultation with an attorney today.

See More Blog Posts:

Statutes of Limitations in Virginia Personal Injury Cases, Virginia Injury Lawyers Blog, October 5, 2017.

“Fireman’s Rule” Prevents Police Officer from Pursuing Personal Injury Case, Virginia Injury Lawyers Blog, October 25, 2017.