A Family Puts a Face on the Nursing Home Arbitration Clause Issue

Many nursing homes require residents or their families to sign arbitration clauses, whereby they sign away their right to bring suit in court for any abuse or neglect by the nursing home. A Senate committee is currently investigating the issue and heard from the family of William Kurth on Wednesday. Kurth fractured his hip and leg and received numerous pressure ulcers while living out his final months in a nursing home. His family attempted to sue for negligence, but the case was dismissed on account of his wife having signed an arbitration clause when her husband was admitted. Arbitration clauses benefit nursing homes because of their speed, cost, and, most notably, their confidentiality. The problem, however, is that most families are not thinking about suing a home when they admit their family member or loved one into the nursing home. Kurth’s wife, for example, was distressed about her husband’s recent stroke and overall condition and was, herself, taking medication when she agreed to arbitration. The Kurth family attorney called that day one of the most stressful in her life, and states that she would not have signed those papers if she knew what she was giving up: the right to a trial by jury. Kurth’s children allege that their father got infections because excrement and urine were left on his bed sores without being cleaned for multiple days in a row. While there is mounting support for banning arbitration clauses for nursing homes, the issue is still hotly contested and far from decided.

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