Contact: Kerri Axelrod
Washington, DC—Today, American Association for Justice announces support of legislation to stop abusive corporate practices that put nursing home residents at risk. The Fairness in Nursing Home Arbitration Act will ensure that the decision to arbitrate be made voluntarily and after the dispute has arisen. With this legislation, corporations will not be able to manipulate the arbitration system in their favor and at the expense of nursing home residents and their families.
"Nursing home residents should not be forced to check their legal rights at the door in deference to large corporate interests", said American Association for Justice President Kathleen Flynn Peterson. "Mandatory arbitration denies nursing home residents access to the civil justice system and stands in the way of the quality long term care they deserve. By forcing people into a costly private system, the corporation sets the rules and hand-picks the players."
Hidden within the fine print of their contracts, nursing home corporations are forcing residents and their family members to sign abusive mandatory arbitration clauses prior to being admitted into a facility. Congress enacted the Federal Arbitration Act in 1925 to allow an alternative forum for two parties with equal-bargaining power to resolve their disputes. Arbitration can only be a valid and effective method of resolving disputes when both parties agree voluntarily, not when it is forced upon people to limit their legal rights.
When admitting his father into a nursing home, Massachusetts resident Charles Miller Jr. signed a lengthy contract that, unbeknownst to him, contained a binding mandatory arbitration clause. His father was not seen by a physician until three weeks after his admission, during which time he lost 19 pounds and suffered from dehydration and pneumonia, all of which led to his death. Miller filed a claim against the nursing home corporation, but was forced into arbitration. The Fairness in Nursing Home Arbitration Act will ensure nursing home residents and their families have the right to seek justice through the legal system when they are injured by the negligence or misconduct of nursing homes.