Recently, a state appellate court issued a written opinion in a personal injury lawsuit that was filed against a Florida nursing home. The case presented the court with the opportunity to discuss the validity of an arbitration contract that was signed by a resident’s wife prior to the resident’s admission into the nursing home.
Nursing Home Arbitration Contracts
When someone is admitted into a Florida nursing home, the nursing home will require that the resident sign a pre-admission contract outlining the expectations, rights, and remedies of the parties. More often than not, these pre-admission contracts contain a clause whereby the parties agree to submit any claims that may arise between the parties to binding arbitration, rather than filing a case through the court system.
What nursing homes rarely tell prospective patients is that an agreement to arbitrate claims cannot be forced upon a resident or their family. In other words, if a resident does not agree to arbitration but agrees with the remaining terms of the contract, the nursing home should not reject the resident’s application based on that fact.
Once an arbitration agreement is signed, it will be enforced if it meets the general requirements of an enforceable contract. There are, however, several defenses to the enforcement of an arbitration agreement.
The Facts of the Case
The plaintiff in the case mentioned above was a woman whose husband died while in the care of the defendant nursing home. Prior to her husband’s admission, the plaintiff signed an agreement to arbitrate on behalf of her husband. After her husband died, the plaintiff filed a wrongful death lawsuit against the defendant nursing home.
The nursing home argued that the case should be heard through arbitration, based on the arbitration clause contained in the pre-admission contract. The plaintiff, however, argued that several aspects of the arbitration agreement were invalid because enforcing the terms went against good public policy. The nursing home did not respond to the plaintiff’s arguments directly but instead argued that the initial determination of whether the contract was valid and whether the contested clauses were severable from the remainder of the contract should be determined through arbitration.
The court disagreed, explaining that the arbitration contract did not contain a specific clause delegating authority to an arbitrator to make this type of determination. Absent such a clause, the court held that there was no basis to find that the plaintiff waived her right of access to the court system and dismissed the nursing home’s appeal.
Have You Signed an Arbitration Agreement?
If you have a loved one in a Florida nursing home, and you believe that they have not been getting the care that they need or deserve, you may be entitled to monetary compensation through a Florida nursing home negligence lawsuit. This may be the case even if you or your loved one signed an arbitration clause prior to their admission. The dedicated South Florida personal injury lawyers at the law firm of Friedman, Rodman & Frank have extensive experience helping Florida nursing home residents and their families pursue cases for compensation against negligent and abusive nursing homes. To learn more, call 877-448-8585 to schedule a free consultation to discuss your case with an attorney today.
More Blog Posts:
Negligent Infliction of Emotional Distress Claims in Florida, South Florida Personal Injury Lawyers Blog, published March 21, 2017.
Accident Victims Should Not Be Pressured to Accept Settlement Offers by Pushy Florida Insurance Adjusters, South Florida Personal Injury Lawyers Blog, published April 5, 2018.