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U.S. Supreme Court Requires Nursing Home Arbitration Agreements Be Treated Like Any Other Contract

Nursing home arbitration clauses have recently come under heavy scrutiny. These clauses, which may act to prevent a party from filing a lawsuit in a court of law, are often contained in large blocks of small print, making it unlikely that the person signing the contract fully understands the importance of the rights they are giving up. As a result, courts routinely invalidate nursing home arbitration agreements when the inclusion and enforcement of the clause would violate general contract law.

Signature LineHowever, in a recent U.S. Supreme Court opinion, the Court found in favor of a nursing home, upholding the arbitration agreement that the plaintiffs signed.

The Facts of the Case

The plaintiffs were the surviving loved ones of two family members who died while in the care of the defendant nursing home. Prior to admitting their loved ones to the nursing home, they obtained a valid power of attorney document, giving them the ability to “dispose of all matters” related to their loved ones.

Before the plaintiffs were able to get their loved ones admitted into the nursing home, they had to fill out the pre-admission contract. Contained in that contract was a clause stating that “[a]ny and all claims or controversies arising out of or in any way relating to . . . the Resident’s stay at the Facility” would be resolved through “binding arbitration.”

After their loved ones died, the plaintiffs filed a wrongful death lawsuit against the nursing home in state court. The nursing home attempted to get the case dismissed, based on the arbitration agreement contained in the pre-admission contract. However, the state court rejected the nursing home’s argument, finding that the right to access the courts was “sacred” and could only be waived by a clear statement evidencing a desire to do so.

The nursing home appealed the case all the way up to the U.S. Supreme Court, which reversed the case in favor of the nursing home. The court explained that under the Federal Arbitration Act, arbitration agreements are considered to be “valid, irrevocable, and enforceable,” unless an exception applies. Importantly, the court explained that the only exceptions that apply are those that apply generally to all contracts. Since the state court created a rule that treated nursing home arbitration agreements differently from other contracts, the Supreme Court held that the state court’s rule was invalid.

Has Your Loved One Suffered in a Georgia Nursing Home?

If you have a loved one in a Georgia nursing home, and you believe that they have been subject to abuse or neglect, you may be entitled to monetary compensation. Even if an arbitration agreement was signed, there are many instances in which a court will find the agreement invalid. Do not listen to nursing home management when they tell you that you do not have a case; instead, call 404-622-5337 to speak with a dedicated personal injury attorney. The skilled injury attorneys at McAleer Law have extensive experience handling nursing home abuse and neglect cases, and they know what it takes to be successful on behalf of their clients.

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Undue Nit-picking by Georgia’s Court of Appeals?, Georgia Injury Attorney Blog, May 23, 2017.