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New Rule Grants Nursing Home Patients More Legal Rights

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.

DC Nursing Home Abuse LawyerThese 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.