Supreme Court Reverses Decision Rejecting Arbitration Agreement Between Nursing Home and Residents

Earlier this month, the United States Supreme Court decided a case that may have a major effect on nursing home claims throughout the United States. In Kindred Nursing Centers, L.P. v. Clark, the court held that state courts cannot adopt rules that single out arbitration agreements for negative treatment.

signatureFacts of the Case

In the case, two individuals each held a power of attorney respectively for their relatives, who were nursing home residents. When the relatives moved into the nursing home, the family members signed arbitration agreements on behalf of the residents at the same nursing home. After both of the residents died, their estates sued the nursing home, alleging that the home had been negligent in caring for them. The nursing home tried to force the plaintiffs into arbitration, claiming they had agreed to settle their claims through arbitration, according to the agreements.

Kentucky’s Supreme Court found that the family members could not enter into the agreements on behalf of the residents because the residents had not expressly given permission for the plaintiffs to do so. The Kentucky Supreme Court did not give effect to the arbitration agreements because it decided that in the case of arbitration agreements, an individual must specifically waive his constitutional right to a jury trial.

The Supreme Court’s Decision

The Supreme Court reversed the Kentucky court’s decision. It found that Kentucky’s rule, requiring a “clear statement” from residents, violated the Federal Arbitration Act (FAA). The FAA was enacted to honor agreements to arbitrate between consenting parties. The FAA requires courts to consider arbitration agreements in the same way as all other contracts.

The Supreme Court held that the FAA supersedes any state rule that discriminates against arbitration, and thus it invalidates any state law that disfavors arbitration agreements in particular. The Court explained that Kentucky’s rule violated the Act by singling out arbitration agreements for discrimination. The Court held that there cannot be special contract rules that apply only to arbitration in light of the FAA. The Court also clarified that states also could not get around the decision by creating rules that disfavor contracts generally that have the “defining features of arbitration agreements.”

Effect on Nursing Home Claims

If an individual has a claim against a nursing home, and an arbitration agreement was signed between the nursing home and the resident or someone on the resident’s behalf, the resident may be required to go through arbitration rather than the court system. However, the Court’s decision only means that states cannot single out arbitration agreements for special treatment. Some arbitration agreements may not be enforceable for the same reasons that other contracts are unenforceable. For example, contractual defenses such as lack of capacity, duress, misrepresentation, or failure to disclose are still available.

Discuss Your Nursing Home Claim with a Chicago Attorney

If you have a loved one who has been a nursing home resident, and you believe they may have been neglected or abused, contact an attorney as soon as possible. The Chicago attorneys at Moll Law Group can help you explore your options. We represent people whose family members have been harmed due to nursing home abuse or neglect. Contact us through our online form or call us at 312-462-1700 to set up a free consultation.

See More Posts:

Pre-Trial Settlements Can Be Ways for Plaintiffs to Obtain Desired Result Without the Risk of Trial, Illinois Injury Lawyer Blog, May 3, 2017.

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

Defective Design Lawsuit Claims Keurig Coffee Machine Caused House Fire, Illinois Injury Lawyer Blog, May 19, 2017.