U.S. Supreme Court Rules in Favor of Nursing Home on Arbitration Issue

Over the past few years, arbitration contracts in nursing homes have been a hot-bed of litigation across the country. Indeed, last year, a federal agency attempted to make it much more difficult for government-funded nursing homes to include arbitration agreements in their pre-admission contracts. However, since then, the nursing home industry has been successful in preventing the ultimate passage and enforcement of that rule.

signatureIn the most recent development, the United States Supreme Court issued an opinion in a nursing home case siding with the nursing home. In that case, two family members filed wrongful death lawsuits against a nursing home that had cared for two of their loved ones prior to their death. Prior to the residents’ admission into the nursing home, they executed a general power of attorney in favor of the plaintiffs, giving the plaintiffs the ability to “dispose of all matters.”

The plaintiffs later placed their loved ones in the defendant nursing home. However, prior to their loved ones’ admission, the plaintiffs had to complete the pre-admission contract. One clause in that contract agreed to submit any and all claims that may arise between the parties to binding arbitration.

When the plaintiffs filed the case against the nursing home, the nursing home’s response was to ask the court to enforce the arbitration agreement. However, the court refused to do so. The court explained that the right to access the court system is a sacred right that can only be explicitly waived. In this case, the court held, the general phrasing of the power of attorney document was insufficient to validly waive the residents’ rights, and therefore the arbitration agreements were invalid.

The nursing home appealed the case all the way up to the United States Supreme Court, which reversed the state court’s opinion. The Supreme Court held that the state court’s rule requiring a clear statement of an intention to waive the right to access the court system violated the Federal Arbitration Act.

The court explained that the Federal Arbitration Act requires that arbitration contracts are considered “valid, irrevocable, and enforceable,” absent an exception. The only exceptions that are applicable, the court explained, are those that generally apply to contract law. In other words, a state court cannot create additional exceptions that would only apply to arbitration contracts, since that would treat arbitration contracts differently from other contracts, which directly goes against the intention of the Federal Arbitration Act.

As a result, the case was remanded back to the lower court with instructions that the lower court dismiss the case pursuant to the Supreme Court’s opinion.

Is Your Loved One in a Florida Nursing Home?

If you have a loved one in a Florida nursing home, and you believe that they may be subject to abuse or neglect, you may be entitled to monetary compensation. The skilled personal injury attorneys at the South Florida law firm of Friedman, Rodman & Frank have decades of experience bringing cases against negligent and abusive nursing home employees. Contact us at 877-448-8585, even if you or your loved one signed an arbitration agreement. It may be that the contract is invalid for any number of reasons.

More Blog Posts:

Florida Appellate Court Determines Water Company May Be Liable in Slip-and-Fall Case, South Florida Personal Injury Lawyers Blog, published May 4, 2017.

The Importance of Following All Procedural Requirements in Florida Personal Injury Cases, South Florida Personal Injury Lawyers Blog, published May 17, 2017.

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