According to the Florida Health Care Association, there are more than 680 nursing homes statewide serving some 73,000 residents, and an additional 3,050 assisted living facilities serving 85,000 residents.
These figures are expected to grow exponentially in coming years as the baby boomer generation ages, and that has raised many questions about the quality of care these facilities are providing – particularly the growing number that operate on a for-profit basis. Research has shown for-profit nursing homes tend to have higher ratios of staff-to-patients, have more safety and health violations and are frequently the subject of litigation alleging nursing home abuse.
Rather than improve their business model, most of these facilities have initiated a mandatory arbitration policy, whereby residents and/or their legal representative are asked upon admission to sign an arbitration agreement. This binding contract is effectively the patient giving up his or her right to take a case to civil court should there be an allegation of abuse or neglect. Instead, the complaint is funneled to private arbitration, which has many advantages for the nursing home, but few for the patient.
Legislators have been taking a closer look at this issue, but in the meantime, many cases have been winding through state courts wherein plaintiffs are alleging these agreements are unconscionable, contrary to public policy or invalid because the person signing had no authority to do so. Sometimes the courts agree, sometimes they don’t. Having an experienced personal injury attorney to make the argument often makes a big difference.
Florida is far from the only state grappling with this issue. Recently the Pennsylvania Supreme Court ruled on one such case, Wert v. Manorcare of Carlisle.
According to court records, the nursing home appealed to the state supreme court after an appeals court affirmed the trial court’s denial of defendant’s motion to compel arbitration. State supreme court affirmed, remanding the case back to the lower court for trial.
The decedent in the case was a resident of a long-term care facility for about six months in 2010, and allegedly suffered abuse and neglect throughout her stay, resulting in numerous injuries and illnesses that eventually resulted in her death. Plaintiff in wrongful death lawsuit alleges defendant knowingly sacrificed the quality of care to residents.
Defendant sought to enforce the arbitration agreement. Trial court denied this request and deemed the agreement unenforceable in large part because it relied as an essential part of its term on procedures from the National Arbitration Forum that were void with respect to consumer arbitration disputes.
Defendants argued the NAF provision wasn’t central to the agreement, but the appeals court affirmed as did the supreme court. The case will go to trial.
If you or a loved one has been a victim of nursing home abuse in Fort Lauderdale, chances are high the facility will attempt to enforce an arbitration agreement signed during the admission process. There are a number of ways an experienced lawyer can argue against that.
Our attorneys are committed to ensuring your rights are protected and fighting to make sure the courthouse doors are open to you.
Call Fort Lauderdale Injury Attorney Richard Ansara at (954) 761-4011. Serving Broward, Miami-Dade and Palm Beach counties.
Wert v. Manorcare of Carlisle, Oct. 27, 2015, Pennsylvania Supreme Court
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Fatal Shooting at Florida Nightclub Raises Issue of Premises Liability, Sept. 30, 2015, Fort Lauderdale Nursing Home Abuse Lawyer Blog