Can I be forced to sign an arbitration agreement in a nursing home?
The 7th Amendment gives all Americans the right to trial by jury to resolve disputes.
Similar to a trial by jury, arbitration is an alternative way to resolve disputes. Instead of a jury, however, one or more arbitrators decides the outcome. Another difference is that a jury trial is a public process, whereas arbitration is secret.
When parties agree to arbitrate, they waive their 7th Amendment right to trial by jury.
Agreements to arbitrate become controversial when they are forced upon a party before a dispute arises.
Arbitration clauses are even more problematic in long term care settings.
In the past, the federal government has prohibited nursing homes from including pre-dispute arbitration clauses in their admission agreements.
This changed in 2019, when the federal government issued a new rule, which allows nursing homes to include pre-dispute arbitration clauses in their admission agreements. However, the rule prohibits nursing homes from requiring that those clauses be signed as a condition of admission.
So what does that mean if you need to move your loved one into a nursing home and you’re being asked to sign an arbitration agreement?
Remember, you do not have to sign that agreement. You can draw a line through the clause that says you agree to arbitration. You can protect your loved ones 7th Amendment right to trial by jury in the event that a dispute arises.
But what if you’ve already signed an arbitration agreement?
The 2019 law says that residents must be given a 30-day window to rescind any signed arbitration agreement. So, if it’s been less than 30 days, you should read the agreement and find out what you have to do to rescind the arbitration clause. Typically, you have to put that in writing and send it to the nursing home.
If it has been more than 30 days, there may be other ways to challenge the arbitration agreement. If your loved one has been injured in a nursing home and you’ve signed an arbitration agreement, contact an attorney to find out what options you have to protect the 7th Amendment right to trial by jury.