Often nursing homes will require residents or their families to sign arbitration agreements before the resident will be accepted into the facility. Such agreements vary but, in essence, they provide that, should the resident or their family believe that the resident has been the victim of negligence, abuse or neglect while at the facility, they agree not sue in court, but rather will resolve the claim via a private, binding arbitration. An arbitration is a proceeding where the parties present their case to a neutral third-party, called an arbitrator (often a retired judge or experienced attorney), who then makes a decision and decides the amount of damages, if any.
Recently, a Berks County, Pennsylvania trial judge refused to enforce one such agreement, required by a Manor Care facility. The judge concluded that this particular agreement was against public policy, because it was both one-sided and confusing. The judge explained that cases involving injuries should not be the subject of routine arbitration unless both parties fully and completely negotiated and agreed to the final terms of the agreement.
By entering into these agreements, nursing home residents and their families must understand that they are giving up their right to have a future their case heard by a jury of their peers. If you believe that you or a loved one has been the victim of nursing home negligence, abuse or neglect, contact the experienced attorneys at Stark & Stark for a free consultation.