Earlier this month, an appellate court issued a written opinion in a nursing home case brought by the surviving loved ones of a woman who died while in the care of the defendant nursing home facility. The case presented a hot-button issue in many nursing home cases across the country: the enforceability of an arbitration clause that was contained in a pre-admission contract. Ultimately, the court concluded that the plaintiff was bound by the arbitration clause because the person who signed on the resident’s behalf had the authority to do so, and the clause itself was not contrary to public policy or otherwise unenforceable.
The Facts of the Case
The plaintiff was the daughter of a nursing home resident who died shortly after being admitted to the hospital while she was a resident at the defendant nursing home. The allegations were that the nursing home failed to implement a safety protocol to prevent residents from falling. The evidence presented suggested that the plaintiff’s loved one fell at least twice during her stay, resulting in injuries that worsened and eventually led to her premature death.
Prior to the resident’s admission into the nursing home, one of the resident’s daughters signed a pre-admission contract. That contract had an arbitration clause contained in it, which stated that the parties agreed to submit any claims between the two to binding arbitration, rather than handling them through the court system. At the time, the resident had executed a power of attorney document, granting her daughter power over her affairs “without limitation.”
Notwithstanding the arbitration agreement, the plaintiff filed a personal injury case against the nursing home in a court of law. The nursing home argued that the arbitration agreement precluded the plaintiff from doing so, and it asked the court to dismiss the case.
The Court’s Opinion
The court agreed with the nursing home and dismissed the plaintiff’s case. The court looked at both the power of attorney document executed in favor of the resident’s daughter as well as the pre-admission contract. The court noted that the power of attorney granted broad powers to the daughter and included the ability to submit any upcoming cases to arbitration. Similarly, the court noted that the arbitration agreement itself was not unfair and that enforcing the agreement would not be contrary to public policy.
Importantly, courts in different jurisdictions view arbitration contracts differently. Most of these cases come down to the specific language in the arbitration contract, and how the text appears in the contract. For example, if an arbitration clause is hidden in a large paragraph that covers many topics, a court may be less likely to enforce the clause.
Has Your Loved One Suffered Injuries in a South Florida Nursing Home?
If you have a loved one in a South Florida nursing home whom you believe has not been provided adequate care by nursing home staff, you may be entitled to monetary compensation. The dedicated personal injury attorneys at the South Florida law firm of Friedman, Rodman & Frank have extensive experience assisting nursing home residents and their families with holding neglectful and abusive nursing home employees responsible for their actions. Call 877-448-8585 to schedule a free consultation with an attorney to discuss your case today.
More Blog Posts:
Florida’s Recreational Use Statute, South Florida Personal Injury Lawyers Blog, published October 27, 2017.
Nursing Home Claims Privilege in Face of Plaintiff’s Discovery Request, South Florida Personal Injury Lawyers Blog, published October 5, 2017.