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Case Law Update: State Rules Against Arbitration Agreement in Nursing Home Wrongful Death Suit

Ward v. National Healthcare Corporation, No. SC89398 ruled that the family of Dorothy Lawrence can go forward with their wrongful death suit against a Missouri nursing home. Ms. Lawrence died while in the care of Beverly Manor due to injuries which she incurred after being dropped by employees. When Dale Lawrence, Ms. Lawrence’s son attempted to hold the home accountable, the home claimed that Ms. Lawrence’s daughter signed an arbitration agreement and therefore the home should not be held accountable in a court of law. The MO Supreme Court rejected the nursing home’s argument and ruled that the arbitration agreement could not be enforced in the claim brought by Dale Lawrence. Nursing home arbitration agreements are becoming more prevalent as nursing homes attempt to shield their negligent actions when they harm or kill seniors. During the last Congress both the U.S. Senate and House introduced legislation which would ban these deceptive agreements in nursing home contracts. This case will have an effect on elderly abuse cases.