Arbitration agreements mean that if you have an issue at a nursing home, a private arbitrator will decide the outcome instead of the case going to court. An arbitrator is like a referee — one that is chosen and paid by the nursing home. “Pre-dispute” means that you agree to waive your right to take your matter to court before any dispute happens, and that includes even the most serious incidents of abuse and neglect. There’s a good reason that nursing homes prefer to have arbitration over the regular court process: nursing homes get far more favorable outcomes in arbitration.
“Pre-dispute arbitration is a one-sided deal, where the benefits go to the nursing home — and not to the resident,” said Leah Barron, a founding partner with Brown & Barron, a law firm specializing in cases of nursing home abuse and neglect.
7 reasons to say no to arbitration
The Consumer Voice for Quality Long-term Care published this list of all the reasons NOT to agree to pre-arbitration:
- A private arbitrator, instead of a judge, decides the outcome of a dispute
- There is no jury
- Arbitration does not have to follow the rules of evidence and can introduce hearsay evidence against the resident
- Decisions are always final, barring extraordinary circumstances, so you cannot appeal a decision you disagree with
- Decisions are almost always confidential, so that the facility’s record of wrongdoing remains secret
- Arbitration is a business. Arbitrators have a financial incentive to find [in favor of] the nursing home in the hope that the nursing home will give the arbitrator more business in the future. This hugely disadvantages residents.
- Arbitration can be far more expensive for a resident than a lawsuit in court.
You have a right to refuse pre-arbitration
A nursing home cannot deny you admission or discharge you because you refuse pre-arbitration. Before you sign your nursing home admission documents, ask if there is pre-arbitration language if they haven’t discussed it. If the pre-dispute arbitration agreement is a separate document, do not sign it. If it is mixed into the rest of the agreement, cross out all the sentences about pre-arbitration, and jot down the date and your initials on the document where you’ve crossed it out. The nursing home agreement will often require a signature where you are acknowledging that you understand the agreement. Before you sign, be careful to ensure that you are not accidentally signing that you agree to arbitration. If you have signed an agreement that includes arbitration, you have 30 days to rescind. Should you want to pursue arbitration down the road, you still can.
Pre-dispute arbitration agreements are included in more than just nursing home contracts. Many companies have them in their employment agreements. It’s a reminder to us all to read the fine print, and never to sign any agreement without reading it first.
Our attorneys at Brown & Barron, LLC focus on representing nursing home residents who have been neglected or abused. We know first-hand how these facilities function, and just how vulnerable residents are to injuries. If you believe you or a family member has suffered as a result of nursing home negligence, we invite you to contact our team as soon as possible to learn more about your rights and options.
If you believe you or a family member has suffered as a result of nursing home negligence, we invite you to contact our team as soon as possible to learn more about your rights and options. To contact our team, call (410) 698-1717 today for a consultation.
This site offers legal information, not legal advice. Although we do our best to provide helpful information about your options, your specific needs require specific legal advice, and for that you should consult an attorney.