The Illinois nursing home neglect lawyers at our firm frequently explain to local residents the dangers of mandatory arbitration agreements. The arbitration process often stacks the deck against families and residents who are harmed by inadequate care being provided at these facilities. The regular civil justice system affords a much better way to ensure that families can hold facilities accountable when errors are made and to force negligent homes to change their practices to protect residents in the future.
That reality is perhaps best evidenced by a recent case of lack of accountability following arbitration in a nursing home case. As explained recently by CBS News, there was a horrific case of murder at a nursing home in 2009. A 100 year old resident was found in her bed at the facility with a bag on her head. The woman had been strangled and suffocated. It soon became clear that the murderer was the resident’s 98 year old roommate. Of course, the family eventually filed a wrongful death lawsuit against the facility for their failure to take reasonable steps which would have prevented the attack.
According to the woman’s son, in the hours before the attack, there was clear evidence that the roommate posed a threat to others. Apparently the attacker has several violent episodes just prior to the murder. Staff members at the facility were aware of those violent episodes. However, notwithstanding the clear warning signs, the staff members left the roommate alone with the victim overnight without letting anyone know of the risks.
However, because the family was forced to sign a mandatory arbitration agreement before their mother could enter the facility, they were not allowed to pursue their lawsuit via the usual civil justice system. Instead they had to take their case to an “arbitrator” who would issue a binding ruling. Amazingly, the arbitrator in this case recently found the facility not responsible for any wrongdoing. The family’s nursing home neglect lawyer explained that he was shocked by the decision, particularly because the nursing home’s own documents showed that the roommate was a risk to herself and others.
The family’s attorney went on to explain that they believe the roommate and the victim had an altercation shortly before the murder. However, even after the altercation nothing was done to keep the resident safe. Her family was not contacted, other senior staff members were not contacted, and the two residents were left together alone in the same room. The one hundred year old resident was found dead in the morning. However, as a result of this arbitration decision, the facility may escape all responsibility for their lack of action which allowed the murder to take place.
Of course, it is decisions like this that act as a crucial reminder of the dangers of these arbitration agreements. Each Illinois nursing home neglect lawyer at our firm understands the disadvantages placed upon community members when forced to work through the arbitration process instead of the regular court system with a judge and jury. Cases like these are further proof of the need to pass common sense legislation like the Arbitration Fairness Act to ensure negligent facilities cannot avoid being held accountable when their failures destroy lives.
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