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.
Arbitration 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.