High court finds arbitration agreement binding on daughter of deceased nursing home resident

The Florida Supreme Court recently determined that a lawsuit connected to the death of a former nursing-home patient in Leesburg should go to arbitration, a form of dispute resolution that takes place outside the courts. The ruling, which was unanimous, took up the issue of whether the arbitration agreements people signs as they enter nursing homes are enforceable.

In this case, a daughter sued the nursing home for wrongful death when her father died four died four days after being admitted to Avante at Leesburg nursing home. He had reportedly been admitted in May 2006 after undergoing knee surgery, and developed a fatal infection during his stay. His daughter apparently didn’t sign the arbitration agreement when her father entered the nursing home, but her father did. The agreement, according to the facility, encompassed claims stemming from the man’s stay at the facility, including negligence and malpractice.

The nursing home industry is in favor of arbitration and says it is an effective way to resolve disputes concerning injuries that sometimes occur in nursing homes, but opponents, including the plaintiffs in the case, say they unfairly take away people’s rights to jury trials.

Of course, arbitration is a contract term that one can either accept or reject, but the underlying issue is whether nursing-home residents and their families actually understand the agreement when they sign the documents.

The justices in this cases found that arbitration agreements should be followed in wrongful death claims. This particular case will have far-reaching effects for those seeking admission to long-term care facilities and their families.

Source: Orlando Sentinel, “Florida Supreme Court rules in favor of Leesburg nursing home in suit over patient’s death,” Jim Saunders, February 19, 2013