Jacobs & Jacobs Nursing Home Suit Shows Dangers of Arbitration Agreements
(January 2012) Part of the nursing home admissions process involves signing many forms. Residents and their families are often trying to cope with the huge change that entering a nursing home entails and may not read all of the forms completely. More frequently, nursing homes are including arbitration agreements in the stack of papers that people need to sign when entering care facilities. If residents are not careful when signing paperwork, they may be signing away their right to sue if neglected or mistreated while living at the nursing home facility. A recent Jacobs & Jacobs case shows why signing an arbitration agreement is a bad idea for nursing home residents.
Gwen Sager, et al., v Harborside Connecticut Limited Partnership, d/b/a Arden House
After Gwen Sager’s mother, Marilee, was released from the hospital following a bad fall, Gwen checked Marilee into Arden House Care and Rehabilitation Center in Hamden, Connecticut in March 2008. When Gwen checked Marilee in, Arden House presented them with an arbitration agreement, which stated that they would use arbitration to settle any claims that should arise against Arden House rather than going to court.
The document had signature lines for the resident, the resident’s power of attorney in his or her personal capacity, and the power of attorney as legal representative. Gwen signed the line for her personal capacity but left the other line blank.
Marilee stayed in Arden House for about a month and during that time Gwen alleged that the staff neglected her mother, leading to dehydration, malnutrition, severe nausea, abdominal pain, weight loss, and lethargy. Marilee died in April 2008 and Gwen filed suit against Arden House for negligence. Arden house countered with a motion to compel arbitration under the agreement that Gwen signed when she checked Marilee into the facility.
The court decided that the arbitration agreement was not properly executed because Gwen never signed as Marilee’s power of attorney; she only signed in her personal capacity by signing on one of the two signature lines. Since the parties never properly executed the arbitration agreement, the court denied Arden House’s motion and allowed Gwen to pursue her claim in court.
Think Twice Before Signing Arbitration Agreements
Nursing home residents and their loved ones should be cautious about signing arbitration agreements when entering a care facility. Many nursing homes are pushing residents to sign such documents, but in doing so residents and their families are agreeing to waive their rights to litigation if the resident is neglected or abused while in the facilities’ care.
Many arbitration agreements are buried deep within admissions documents and elderly residents and their family members often do not know what they are signing. The problem has become so common and harmful to injured residents that some members of Congress have proposed legislation to outlaw such arbitration agreements.
We are proud that our firm has helped bring this important issue to the public. We caution you against signing arbitration agreements with nursing homes.
If you or a loved one has suffered from neglect or abuse in a nursing home and are struggling with having signed an arbitration agreement, consult an experienced nursing home neglect attorney who can advise you of your rights and legal options.