By: Allan M. Siegel
On September 28, the U.S. Health and Human Services Department issued a
rule banning pre-dispute binding arbitration clauses for nursing home
patients in facilities that accept federal money (i.e., almost every nursing
home). Binding arbitration clauses, which can be buried in long contracts
signed by nursing home patients and their families, block patients from
filing lawsuits and require them to settle claims through a private arbitration
process. Critics allege that nursing home companies often get to pick
the arbitrator, which tilts the process in their favor, and also keeps
stories of neglect and abuse from going public.
These contractual arbitration clauses prevent residents and their families
from suing nursing homes even in cases of severe abuse, neglect, or death.
Instead of taking the nursing home facility to court, binding arbitration
clauses in nursing home contracts require patients and their families
to participate in a confidential arbitration process.
The new rule will allow nursing home patients and their families to seek
their day in court. This new regulation was enacted on the rationale that
patients admitted to nursing homes are often under great pressure and
do not comprehend the rights they sacrifice when signing contracts containing
binding arbitration clauses buried in fine print.
Over the last 10 years, mandatory arbitration clauses have popped up in
all types of consumer contracts, covering everything from student loans
to cell phones. Because large corporations are “frequent flyers”
of arbitration services, the arbitration process favors corporate defendants
over individuals, according to critics. In addition, the arbitration process
is confidential and individuals lose some of their negotiating leverage
when corporations and powerful defendants would prefer that a story remain private.
The new nursing home rule is a win for nursing home patients who have experienced serious
neglect and abuse. The rule becomes effective on November 28, 2016 and will prevent long-term
care facilities from requiring residents to sign pre-dispute arbitration
agreements as a condition of admission.
At Chaikin, Sherman, Cammarata & Siegel, P.C., our experienced trial
attorneys have been helping injured victims of nursing home abuse and
neglect throughout Washington, D.C., Maryland, and Virginia for more than
40 years. Our legal team is compassionate, aggressive, and informed about
effective means to help nursing home residents and their families hold
negligent and reckless long-term care facilities accountable. If you or
someone you love was hurt in a long-term care facility or nursing home, please
call us today for a free, confidential consultation with an attorney. Because
strict time deadlines apply to filing a claim, we recommend contacting
us at your earliest convenience.