Late last year, a Mississippi judge voted to block a ban on arbitration clauses in nursing home residency agreements. The ban, introduced by the Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services (CMS), was intended to preserve the right to a jury trial and to encourage better care and oversight by nursing home staff. Despite the ban, victims and loved ones of those who have faced abuse, neglect, and even death are clinging to the very mention of CMS’ rule intended to ban binding arbitration clauses in hopes that it will be reinstated and breathe life into their legal battle against nursing homes.
A Daughter’s Fight for Justice
In Minneapolis, the daughter of an 89 year old assisted living facility resident who died after hernia complications in 2014 is suing the nursing home, Lighthouse of Columbia Heights, for failing to respond to obvious signs of a hernia in her father. Doctors had ordered staff to notify them if Mr. Seeger, the decedent, showed any signs of a hernia, given that he had experienced them in the past. After the staff had ignored obvious symptoms, his daughter went to visit her father, only to discover him vomiting and screaming about pain in his groin area. She called 911 and had her father transported to a hospital where he died shortly after admission. Seeger’s daughter faced a hurdle when attempting to sue Lighthouse of Columbia Heights: the family had waived their right to a jury trial by signing a 36 page residency agreement in which a binding arbitration clause was embedded. The daughter said that she asked for time to look over the agreement with an attorney but that the facility pressured her into thinking the apartment would be gone by the time she had done so. The attorney hired by the family is arguing that they signed the contract under duress, which would make the contract legally void. Lighthouse of Columbia Heights is fighting back by saying that they never pressured the family. While contracts can be tough to void, the lawsuit against the facility is being buoyed by the recent ban on binding arbitration, even with it currently stalled by the courts. In addition to the Seeger Family, many others who have debated seeking legal assistance despite signing an arbitration agreement are being filled with hope that justice might be on the horizon.