In states across the country, there have been battles between states and nursing homes, and between nursing homes and residents or their loved ones, over the use of arbitration provisions in nursing home contracts. When a family rushes a loved one in for care, particularly when they are frail or just came out of the hospital, they are likely to sign on the dotted line relatively quickly to ensure that the patient receives their care immediately. While it is on these parties to generally understand what is in these contracts, the same cannot be said for the specific arbitration provisions. These clauses are intended to require nursing home residents or their loved ones to waive their rights to take legal disputes with the facility to a jury trial in a court, and instead submit to binding arbitration, which is an out-of-court alternative dispute process.
While there have been conflicting decisions as to the validity of such contractual provisions as jurisdictions differ and certain provisions are considered on a case-by-case basis, some court shave found this mandatory arbitration to be a broad and ambiguous requirement which residents and their families, unless well-trained lawyers, could not impliedly or expressly consent to because they cannot truly understand the scope of what they are agreeing to waive. It is generally feared that arbitration provisions favor nursing homes who can hire high-powered expert attorneys, and because arbitration involves a separate set of rules, and the decision is made by one or a few arbitrators, as opposed to a jury of peers as contemplated by the U.S. Constitution.