Can the Consumer Ever Win? Arbitration Clauses in Nursing Homes
Somewhere in your cell phone or credit card contract, buried in the fine print is a mandatory arbitration clause which waives your right to a jury trial and instead binds you to arbitration if there is ever a dispute. You may not have known that you have waived your right to hold a corporation accountable through a jury trial and instead agreed to arbitration because you did not read the lengthy contract. Usually these sneaky arbitration clauses are buried somewhere in a tiny paragraph in the middle of the massive contract. Now, these arbitration clauses are being quietly added to nursing home contracts. The Nursing Home Industry is now including these pre-dispute mandatory arbitration clauses to their admission contracts and you need to know what you can do to protect your loved ones.
As you are making the difficult decision of putting a loved one into a nursing home, you could also inadvertently sign away you right to go to court to for neglect or abuse of your loved one. With the deadly arbitration clause, if there is the death or injury of a loved one, you would be required to fight your dispute in a secret and binding arbitration process that favors the Nursing Home Industry. When you signed the admission agreement with the nursing home you agreed to have any dispute heard by an arbitrator chosen by the nursing home, to have the proceedings held in private, and for the decision to be unrecorded. (This has only changed in California which now requires decisions by arbitrators to be recorded. However, arbitrations still favor the nursing homes, not the patient or their family).
If you bring a matter before an arbitrator or panel of arbitrators you are most likely going to lose. Since these private arbitrators are repeatedly hired by the Nursing Home Industry, it is highly likely that they are going to rule in favor of the nursing home in order to get hired again. Nursing homes and other large companies are going to hire arbitrators that they know to favor their side. A recent NPR broadcast highlighted a study claiming that 94% of consumers lost in arbitration and those arbitrators that ruled in favor of the consumer were typically not re-hired by the company for future arbitrations. This statistic is not wholly for nursing homes but gives a good indication of ones chances of prevailing in an arbitration proceeding.
WARNING: Be aware that you do NOT have to sign any nursing home admission agreement! The nursing home cannot refuse to admit your loved one into their facility just because you do not sign the contract that contains an arbitration agreement. By no means are you required to accept an arbitration clause in a nursing home contract. What should you do if you have put a family member in a nursing home? If you do not want to enter into an arbitration agreement, carefully read the nursing home’s Admission Agreement and feel free to cross out or decline the arbitration clause. Please understand that you do not have to initial or approve of any arbitration clause contained in a nursing home Admission Agreement. You can protect your right to a jury trial should the nursing home neglect or abuse your loved one.
The York Law Corporation is very aware of the fact that many companies are taking advantage of consumers by attempting to sneak in arbitration clauses into their agreements. We are experienced in nursing home admissions agreements. We are familiar with nursing homes trying to include mandatory, binding arbitration clauses to hold secret and unrecorded sessions that are inherently unfair to the consumer. We believe that cases of elder neglect need to be heard by a jury and be put on public record.
If you are worried about entering into an arbitration agreement and a resident of Northern California, the York Law Corporation will review nursing home admission agreements for FREE to ensure that you do not sign away your right to go to court.