A landmark decision by the Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services, a division of the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services, guarantees nursing home residents and their families their right to sue long-term care facilities despite forced arbitration clauses. The agency is directly responsible for Medicare and Medicaid funding. It now prevents these facilities from forcing residents to pursue elder abuse and wrongful death claims via arbitration. This rule extends protections to over 1.5 million residents in nursing homes that receive federal funding, which includes most facilities.
The Problem with Forced Arbitration
Thanks to this new rule, all nursing homes that receive any kind of federal funding are barred from forcing their residents into mandatory arbitration. Arbitration is a dispute resolution method in which two parties agree to resolve a dispute outside of court. When arbitration is forced, it typically leaves the consumer at a severe disadvantage. Throughout the years, such clauses have shielded disputes from the public eye, including serious issues regarding safety and care in nursing home facilities.
In the past, the courts have grudgingly turned away cases of extreme circumstances because the residents had signed a forced arbitration clause. These clauses are often hidden in the contracts residents are required to sign to acquire services; an increasing number of consumers are forced to choose between receiving medical care and their constitutional right to sue for damages. Due to these predatory arbitration clauses, victims of horrible abuse, neglect, and even murder have not been able to receive justice.
Arbitration ensures that your case will never be discovered by the public. Even if you suffered unimaginable levels of abuse at the hand of the care facility, prospective residents will never know your pain. They will also never know what they are likely to receive should they suffer a similar grievance.
The Case of the 100-Year-Old Murder Victim
Senior resident Elizabeth Barrow was found dead with a plastic bag around her head in a Massachusetts nursing home in 2009. It was discovered that it was her 97-year-old roommate’s doing. Laura Lundquist, diagnosed with dementia, believed that Barrow was going to “take over the room.” Despite her mental state, Lundquist was still charged with