Alabama Consumers May Be Forced Into Arbitration Agreements For Nursing Home Care

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Mandatory arbitration is a growing problem in Alabama and this recent Wall Street Journal article discusses how it is becoming more common in Nursing Home contracts to require the family to sign an arbitration agreement. Please read this entire article but here is the heart of the argument:

Nursing homes have been among the biggest converts to the practice since a wave of big jury awards in the late 1990s. Attorneys litigating nursing-home cases on both sides say arbitration has quickly become the rule rather than the exception. Critics say the binding agreements are determining the outcome of high-stakes cases of vulnerable patients that should instead be handled by the courts. Too often, they say, people don’t understand whether the clauses are mandatory, or that they are signing away their rights to sue. “It is an unfair practice given the unequal bargaining position between someone desperate to find a place for their loved ones and a large corporate entity like a nursing home,” said Sen. Mel Martinez, a Florida Republican who introduced legislation along with Democratic Sen. Herb Kohl of Wisconsin.

‘IT SOUNDS SO GOOD FOR THE CUSTOMER’

The biggest arbitration provider, the American Arbitration Association, frowns on agreements requiring arbitration in disputes over nursing-home care and generally refuses such cases. Some patients “really are not in an appropriate state of mind to evaluate an agreement like an arbitration clause,” says Eric Tuchmann, the association’s general counsel. A second group, the American Health Lawyers Association, also avoids them. Other arbitration groups say they generally accept the cases if the agreements comply with the law.

We have a number of blog posts on our Alabama Consumer Law Blog regarding arbitration and typically how unfair it is to consumers. Its hard to imagine a more unfair use of mandatory arbitration agreements than an elderly person going into a nursing home or the family trying to get their elderly parent into a nursing home. When someone has been injured or killed, forcing the family to go through arbitration seems particularly disgusting.

If you have a question about a nursing home case or an arbitration agreement regarding a nursing home case, please feel free to contact us for a free consultation.

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