Did you or your loved one sign a nursing home agreement containing a pre-dispute, mandatory arbitration clause? If so, you may be wondering if the nursing home arbitration agreement be enforced? The answer is it depends on the specific circumstances — a forced arbitration clause may be binding, but only if specific conditions are met. Here, our San Francisco nursing home injury lawyers explain what families need to know about the enforceability of nursing home arbitration agreements in California.
What is Arbitration and Why is it Relevant to Nursing Home Injuries?
Arbitration is a common form of alternative dispute resolution (ADR). It is a private, binding process — meaning an arbitrator’s decision is enforceable in state and federal courts. In entering a facility, many nursing home residents are asked to sign agreements containing pre-dispute arbitration provisions.
Unfortunately, what many people do not fully understand is signing a valid pre-dispute arbitration agreement may foreclose your ability to file a lawsuit. Assuming the clause is enforceable, any dispute between the resident and the facility — including a dispute over a nursing home injury — will be resolved in arbitration, not in litigation.
California Law: Nursing Home Arbitration Agreements are Not Always Enforceable
Here is the basic rule to know about pre-dispute arbitration provisions in nursing home agreements: Forced arbitration is only enforceable if both parties had the capacity to enter the agreement. Under California law (California Code of Civil Procedure section 1281.2(c)), state courts have the authority to set aside an arbitration clause that fails to meet state standards or that is otherwise inequitable. As it pertains to nursing home injury claims, there is often a question regarding whether the vulnerable resident truly had the legal competence to voluntarily sign such an agreement.
Federal Rule: Optional Arbitration Permissible, Forced Arbitration Barred
To participate in Medicare or Medicaid programs — which most, but not all nursing homes do — a facility must meet certain federal requirements. Under a 2019 rule from the Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services (CMS), nursing homes are allowed to ask residents to sign pre-dispute, binding arbitration agreements. However, they cannot require a resident to sign such an agreement as a requirement of entering or remaining in the facility. If an assisting living facility fails to disclose this to a resident, a pre-dispute arbitration provision may not be enforceable as a matter of state or federal law.
The bottom line: Do not assume a binding arbitration clause is enforceable in a nursing home injury claim — even if the management of the facility tells you otherwise. These are complicated cases and they should always be reviewed by an attorney.
Contact Our San Francisco, CA Nursing Home Abuse Lawyers for Help
At Bracamontes & Vlasak, our California nursing home injury attorneys are compassionate, justice-focused advocates for vulnerable individuals and their families. If you have questions about forced arbitration provisions, we can help. To schedule a free, completely confidential review of your case, please contact our law firm right away. We represent nursing home abuse victims throughout the Bay Area, including in San Francisco, Oakland, San Jose, Palo Alto and Daly City.