It is easier to sue nursing homes

By Rheingold Giuffra Ruffo & Plotkin LLP

The Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services, an agency within the Department of Health and Human Services, passed a new regulation that prevents nursing homes that accept federal funding from forcing claims into arbitration. Arbitration is a private method of dispute resolution, similar to courts but entirely within the control of the parties. Nursing homes tend to force new residents to sign contracts that surrender their rights to the judicial system for a variety of claims including elder abuse, wrongful death, and sexual harassment.

Medicaid funding supports about 1.5 million residents and the vast majority of nursing homes, so this rule is wide-ranging in its effect. The purpose of these clauses, while not necessarily meant to cover up injuries, invariably ends up doing just that. Furthermore, many families lack the resources to pay for arbitration. In arbitration, the parties are expected to share in the cost of the arbitrator. Additionally, nursing homes hold more power over the arbitrator because the family will only see the arbitration agency once, whereas the nursing home represents repeat business.

The Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services argued that it is restoring a fundamental right to millions of Americans. Also, the clauses tend to force families to choose between medical care and surrendering their right to litigation. These rules represent the single largest overhaul of the funding for nursing homes in the past two decades.

If your loved one was injured in a nursing home, you might want to call an attorney. A lawyer can go over your loved one’s rights to recover damages for his or her injuries. Unfortunately, nursing home staff exercises extreme power and control over their residents. These controls can occasionally result in abuse or failure to monitor by the staff, but that is why it is up to families to ensure that their loved one receives an adequate level of care.

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