Plaintiff Barred from Pursuing Nursing Home Claim in Court Because Deceased Wife Signed Arbitration Agreement

In a recent case, a state supreme court had to decide whether an arbitration agreement, governed by the Federal Arbitration Act and entered into by a nursing home patient and her power of attorney, was enforceable against her husband after he brought a wrongful death action. The man brought a lawsuit against a nursing home after his wife died at the home, alleging that the home was negligent in the care of his wife and that this negligent treatment caused her death. The nursing home responded by arguing that the case had to be resolved through arbitration, and the trial court agreed. The plaintiff appealed, claiming that he could not be bound to his wife’s arbitration agreement as a wrongful death beneficiary.

Signing ContractAt the time the wife was admitted to the nursing home, she had executed a power of attorney in favor of her husband. Her husband then signed an arbitration agreement, stating that claims subject to arbitration included any claims arising out of her stay at the home. The agreement also stated that it applied to the patient and the nursing home, as well as the parties’ successors, assigns, and intended and incidental beneficiaries. It also stated that it applied to “any parent, spouse, child, executor, administrator, heir, or survivor entitled to bring a wrongful death claim.”

Considering the language in the contract and other similar cases, the court found the arbitration agreement did bind the woman’s beneficiary. Thus, the agreement required him to resolve the claim through arbitration, and he could not bring the claim in court.

Arbitration in Nursing Home Cases

Arbitration is a procedure in which a claim is submitted to an arbitrator for resolution rather than pursued through the traditional court system. Both parties must agree to participate in arbitration; however, many contracts contain arbitration clauses, stating that any claims arising between the parties will be resolved in arbitration. If enforceable, these agreements may require a party to submit a claim to arbitration even if it is their desire to use the court system.

Nursing home admission agreements often contain arbitration clauses, requiring residents to resolve disputes with the nursing home through arbitration. This means that the nursing home is able to avoid going to court, which is often much less expensive for nursing homes. In some cases, the nursing home selects the arbitrator of its choice, bringing up concerns of bias.

Recently, nursing home arbitration clauses have been a subject of much litigation. The federal government issued a rule last year that prohibited nursing homes that received federal funding from entering into arbitration agreements before a dispute arises. However, that rule is now in question because a federal judge found the government did not have the authority to issue that rule. In the meantime, many courts wrestle with the enforceability of arbitration agreements.

Discuss Your Nursing Home Claim with a Chicago Lawyer

If your loved one or a representative signed an arbitration agreement, and you believe you have a claim against the nursing home, you will have to consider how the agreement will affect your claim. The Chicago attorneys at Moll Law Group can help you explore the scope of your options. Our firm represents individuals and families filing claims against nursing homes resulting from bed sores, burn injuries, choking, clogged breathing tubes, drowning, and falls, as well as other incidents of nursing home abuse or neglect. We represent nursing home residents and their families in Naperville, Schaumburg, Wheaton, and communities throughout Cook County. Call us at 312-462-1700 or contact us through our online form to set up a free consultation.

See More Posts:

Bed-Sores Considered a “Never Event” by Center for Medicare and Medicaid Services, Illinois Injury Lawyer Blog, March 8, 2017.

Resident-on-Resident Sexual Abuse in Nursing Homes, Illinois Injury Lawyer Blog, April 3, 2017.

The Continuing Danger of Lead Paint in Chicago-Area Homes, Illinois Injury Lawyer Blog, March 10, 2017.