Arbitration in Florida Nursing Home Abuse and Neglect Cases

Florida nursing home residents and their families are often forced into signing arbitration agreements with nursing homes, purporting to require that the claims be resolved in arbitration. However, such agreements are not always enforceable, as shown by one recent case.

According to the court’s opinion, an elderly woman was admitted to a nursing facility with a number of debilitating conditions. At some point, her daughter signed an arbitration agreement with the facility. She signed in the signature block for “Resident Representative/Agent Signature.” Evidently, the plaintiff’s mother was later transferred to a hospital for ulcers, gangrene, and sepsis. The mother died soon after. The daughter sued the facility alleging that her right leg had to be amputated and she suffered severe injuries because the nursing facility failed to provide proper care. She alleged negligent and willful misconduct, elder abuse, and wrongful death.

Specifically, the daughter sued the nursing facility as her mother’s successor in interest. She also sued the facility in her individual capacity for the wrongful death of her mother. The nursing facility argued that all the claims had to be resolved in arbitration, as stated in the arbitration agreement. An employee stated in a declaration that the mother and daughter were both present when the agreement was signed during the admission process and that the mother explicitly authorized the daughter to sign the agreement on the mother’s behalf. In contrast, the daughter claimed that she signed the agreement in an office after the admission process, and that her mother was not present. She also claimed that her mother never authorized her to sign any documents on her behalf.

The trial court found the facility failed to prove that the arbitration agreement was enforceable, and the appeals court upheld that decision. The court noted the only evidence that the mother authorized the daughter to sign for her was the facility employee’s declaration. The court noted that certain facts supported the daughter’s version of events. For one, the employee dated her signature on the arbitration agreement ten days after the mother was admitted. In addition, the mother had dementia and serious medical conditions when she was admitted, undermining the employee’s contention that the mother was alert and able to understand what they were signing.

The appeals court upheld the decision. The court further upheld the determination that the arbitration agreement was unenforceable as to the plaintiff because the agreement did not include her, as it was specifically between the resident and the facility.

Has Your Loved One Been Hurt While in a Nursing Home?

If you believe your loved one may have suffered an injury at a Florida nursing home and that the nursing home may be at fault, speak to an experienced Florida personal injury attorney as soon as possible. Even if you signed an arbitration agreement, that may not prevent you from continuing your case in court. The experienced Miami medical malpractice attorneys at Friedman, Rodman & Frank, P.A. are dedicated to achieving favorable results for medical negligence and personal injury victims. To speak with an attorney, call us today at 877-448-8585 or contact us online through our online form to arrange a free and confidential consultation.

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