When adult children entrust an elderly parent to the care of a nursing home, they expect that the staff is properly licensed, trained and supervised, and that the facility will provide adequate care for the elderly parent. When nursing staff or the facility fails in its duty to provide care for a resident and serious injury or death results, family members should have the ability to seek compensation and hold the facility and nursing staff accountable.
One of the hurdles that can get in the way of family members obtaining compensation from a negligent nursing facility is an arbitration agreement. Many nursing home facilities across the country are requiring prospective residents to sign arbitration agreements in order to be admitted for care. Many new residents and their family members sign these agreements without really understanding what they entail if the facility engages in wrongdoing and the family wants to sue.
Arbitration agreements, generally speaking, favor businesses rather than the little guy. In the case of nursing home arbitration agreements, this is not only because of the process itself, but also because arbitration agreements too often prevent systemic health and safety problems from receiving the attention they need to get. Another potential issue is that prospective residents may not even fully understand what an arbitration agreement means at the time they are admitted. This is particularly the case if they do not personally sign the agreement.
Back in March, the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Fifth Circuit, which includes Mississippi, ruled that family members do not need to have written power of attorney from the resident to sign and bind the resident to the facility’s arbitration agreement. In our next post, we’ll look a bit more at the case and why it is important to consult an attorney before signing a nursing home arbitration agreement and when issues surrounding such agreements arise.