Are nursing home patients signing away their rights?

When a patient moves into a nursing home, the patient or a family member must typically sign an admission agreement. In many cases, these agreements say that any legal disputes between the patient and the facility will be resolved through "arbitration."

That means that instead of being able to bring a case in court to decide who's right, a patient or family member must go before a private judge.

In arbitration, you might be giving up your right to a jury, a public trial, the ability to obtain and present certain evidence, and the ability make certain claims and obtain certain remedies.

Recently, the West Virginia Supreme Court decided that if a patient was injured due to the carelessness of nursing home staff, the patient's family could still sue in court even though the admission contract said they had to go to arbitration.

In arbitration, you might be giving up your right to a jury, a public trial, the ability to obtain and present certain evidence, and the ability make certain claims and obtain certain remedies.

The court examined various state and federal laws, and concluded that while two people who have already have a legal dispute are free to choose to have it resolved by arbitration, a nursing home contract can't force someone to sign away their right to a court trial before a dispute even arises.

The law on arbitration is complex and varies from state to state, but if you have any questions about your right to sue in court, we'd be happy to help you.