NY Times: nursing home arbitration case is pivotal in holding wrongdoers responsible
In its continuing coverage of how unfair mandatory arbitration clauses harm Americans, the New York Times has a sad piece about a case currently pending in Massachusetts involving a murdered 100-year-old woman and the nursing home negligence that lead to her death.
“Arbitration clauses have proliferated over the last 10 years as companies have added them to tens of millions of contracts for things as diverse as cellphone service, credit cards and student loans. Nursing homes in particular have embraced the clauses, which are often buried in complex contracts that are difficult to navigate, especially for elderly people with dwindling mental acuity or their relatives, who can be emotionally vulnerable when admitting a parent to a home.
State regulators are concerned because the secretive nature of arbitration can obscure patterns of wrongdoing from prospective residents and their families. Recently, officials in 16 states and the District of Columbia urged the federal government to deny Medicaid and Medicare money to nursing homes that use the clauses. Between 2010 and 2014, hundreds of cases of elder abuse, neglect and wrongful death ended up in arbitration, according to an examination by The New York Times of 25,000 arbitration records and interviews with arbitrators, judges and plaintiffs.
Judges have consistently upheld the clauses, The Times found, regardless of whether the people signing them understood what they were forfeiting. It is the most basic principle of contract law: Once a contract is signed, judges have ruled, it is legally binding.”
The woman’s son brought suit against a nursing home and was forced into mandatory arbitration.
“Mr. Barrow said he was optimistic but soon became disillusioned with the process. His legal team said they discovered that the arbitration firm running the hearing had previously handled more than 400 arbitrations for the law firm representing the nursing home company.
His lawyers David Hoey and Krzysztof Sobczak questioned whether the process could be objective when the arbitration firm had drawn so much business from one of the parties. The arbitrator ultimately ruled in the nursing home’s favor but provided no explanation. His ruling consisted of a single check mark, indicating that Brandon Woods had not been negligent in its care of Mrs. Barrow.”