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Nursing homes may return to arbitration agreements

Those considering Kentucky nursing homes for the care of their loved ones may want to know about proposed rule change that could shield facilities from lawsuits. A prior rule allowed facilities that receive federal funding to use mandatory arbitration clauses in contracts; however, they could not demand consent to arbitration as a condition of admittance. The new rule proposed in July would allow the inclusion of pre-dispute arbitration clauses as a condition of serving patients and their families.

Taking away the right of consumers to petition the courts could prove to be problematic. Pre-dispute arbitration clauses are commonly used in financial contracts, but the damages caused by nursing home abuse extend far beyond monetary value. Victims may suffer from neglect, which could include malnutrition, failure to monitor patient well-being, pressure sores and serious injuries leading to amputation or death. Since arbitration imposes confidentiality and other limitations, a victim and family may receive monetary compensation without exposing the nursing home to the community.

The potential for public court hearings, loss of reputation and jury decisions serve as a primary reason for nursing homes to maintain high standards of care, adequate staff levels and strict hiring policies. Some fear that mandatory arbitration will remove this incentive. Victims could also end up losing monetary compensation in arbitration with nursing homes typically selecting the arbitrator.

Facilities that provide care for senior citizens take on serious responsibilities, including the hiring of competent staff in sufficient numbers to prevent nursing home negligence or more serious grievances. Families often face difficult decisions when it comes to selecting a facility, and they may feel their options are limited when the best choice ends up putting their loved one in danger. When nursing home abuse is suspected, families can seek the assistance of a lawyer experienced in medical malpractice litigation.

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