Nursing homes have come under fire over the past few years for the manner in which they get residents and their families to give up their right to pursue a case against the nursing home in court. Often, these arbitration clauses are, at best, written in small text hidden among countless other pages of documents or, at worst, presented to residents in a take-it-or-leave it fashion, such that if they refuse to sign their application will be rejected.
An arbitration clause is not so much about what a nursing home resident is getting, but about what they give up. Under the U.S. Constitution, everyone has the right to access the court system to resolve grievances; however, that right can be waived through an explicit agreement to arbitrate all claims instead of using the court system. One of the problems with arbitration, however, is that it often puts a nursing home at an unfair advantage.
Thus, government agencies and watch-dog groups have been advocating for nursing homes to do away with arbitration clauses in their pre-admission paperwork. These are often presented to a potential resident or their family in a time of desperation, when the consequences of waiving their rights may not be fully realized. Notwithstanding that fact, nursing homes continue to include arbitration clauses in their pre-admission paperwork, although few have the gall to deny a resident admission if they refuse to sign it. Instead, nursing homes are relying on a resident not fully understanding what it is they are signing or simply overlooking the clause altogether.