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Nursing Home Arbitration Agreements: Are They Enforceable?


In many parts of the country, including here in Tennessee, if a loved one needs a nursing home, there may not be many options. That’s especially true if a loved one needs a specialized nursing home. So when you find that home for a loved one that seems perfect, with everything your relative needs, that nursing home may be your only option.

When you admit your loved one, you sign a series of papers, but really, what choice do you have, right? So you sign whatever it is they put in front of you. But one thing you are signing, is very likely, an arbitration agreement.

What Are Arbitration Agreements?

An arbitration agreement says that if you have a legal claim against the nursing home—such as if the home abuses or neglects your family member, or someone in the home commits medical malpractice against your loved one—that you cannot go to court to sue—you must go to arbitration.

Arbitration has no jury, and your case will be heard before an arbitrator, not a judge. Your right to get certain information and evidence that you may need to prove your case is also cut off, limited, by the terms of the arbitration rules, which are different from the rules that you have in a traditional court.

Can you refuse to sign the arbitration agreement? You can—but then it is likely that your family member won’t get admitted into that home (or any, to the extent that most all nursing homes will have arbitration agreements).

Enforcing a Previously Signed Arbitration Agreement

The bigger question is whether an arbitration agreement, previously signed, can be overturned, or ignored, in the face of a lawsuit for nursing home abuse or neglect.

Generally, arbitration agreements are enforceable by Tennessee courts. But in the realm of healthcare, including nursing homes, courts will look much more strenuously at these agreements, giving victims an avenue to argue that the arbitration agreement should not be enforced.

For example, a court will look to see if the family that signed the agreement had any real choice—that is, whether the contract was one of adhesion or not. The less choice a family has—for example, if the nursing home is the only one in town, or the only one that provides the care the patient needs—the less likely arbitration will be held to be enforceable.

Courts will also look at how clear the arbitration provision was—some are buried on, for example, page 12 of a 20 page document, in small type. Some provisions of the nursing home agreement may have to be discussed with the patient or the patients’ family, to be enforceable.

Of course, every nursing home contract is different, so if you have a loved one who has been injured in or by a nursing home, let an experienced Tennessee nursing home attorney review your nursing home agreement.

If you have a loved one that you feel was injured while in, or by, a nursing home, get help today. Call the Knoxville personal injury attorneys at Fox Farley Willis & Burnette, PLLC, today.




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