Can a Nursing Home Compel Arbitration of Abuse Claims?

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Nursing home abuse is sadly an all-too-common problem in Florida. Many elderly nursing home residents are victims of abuse, neglect, and poor living conditions. To protect themselves, many nursing homes try to avoid abuse-related lawsuits by pressuring residents to agree to binding arbitration. In many cases, a nursing home resident may sign away valuable legal rights without realizing it.

Nursing Home Not Entitled to Benefit From Assisted Living Facility’s Agreement

While courts generally will enforce nursing home arbitration agreements, there are limits, and victimized residents (and their families) should not hesitate to challenge bogus arbitration demands. Here is a recent example from here in Florida. This case actually involves the estate of a now-deceased former nursing home resident who was allegedly the victim of negligence.

The decedent originally signed an arbitration agreement when she became a resident of an assisted living facility (ALF) in Brandon, Florida. This agreement required “any and all claims or controversies” arising from the decedent’s “stays at the Facility” be submitted to binding arbitration. In the event the decedent was “transferred” and later “readmitted” to the facility, the arbitration agreement would still apply to “this and all future admissions.”

At some point, the decedent was transferred from the ALF to a skilled nursing facility (SNF) located in the same retirement community. It was during her stay at the SNF that she allegedly suffered her injuries. When the decedent’s estate subsequently sued the SNF, it argued that its “affiliation” with the ALF entitled it to the benefits of the arbitration agreement. A trial court agreed and granted the SNF’s motion to compel arbitration.

But the Florida Second District Court of Appeals disagreed and reversed the trial judge’s decision. The SNF was not a party to the arbitration agreement. Nor was it in an “identified class of persons expressly intended to benefit from the arbitration agreement,” according to the Second District. And even if it was an intended third-party beneficiary, the Second District said the claims raised by the estate’s lawsuit still do not fall within the scope of the arbitration agreement.

The agreement itself specifically refers to controversies arising from the decedent’s stay at “this Facility,” meaning the assisted living facility and not the SNF, the Second District concluded. Nor does the “readmission” language apply to this case, as the decedent’s admission to the SNF was a separate event, not a readmission to the ALF. Accordingly, the Second District said the estate could proceed with its lawsuit against the SNF.

Get Advice From a Florida Nursing Home Abuse Attorney

Nursing home abuse can be devastating for victims and their families. When you entrust a loved one to a nursing or assisted living facility, you expect them to be well care for. If that is not the case, you should have access to the courts to seek justice. Arbitration agreements have their place, but not when a person has not freely and expressly agreed to waive their constitutional rights. If you have questions or concerns about how your own family members are being treated and need to speak with an experienced Clearwater nursing home abuse attorney, contact the Law Office of Paul B. Genet, P.A., today at (727) 538-8865.

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