In my practice, I am currently responding to a motion to dismiss a lawsuit because of a forced arbitration document that was slipped into admission paperwork. “Arbitration” is basically something written in the fine print where a person “agrees” to waive their right to a jury trial and go to a secret forum for disputes. These arbitration documents are so offensive they used to be illegal in New Jersey nursing homes.
The reasons companies do these are because they typically pick the rules and an arbitration company, and historically they get better results at arbitration then they do in court. Also, a person generally has to pay very high costs at arbitration – costs they would never pay in court. Most importantly, what happens in arbitration is secret – so even for the worst care or abuse no one will ever know what happened if there is an arbitration. You never see these things explained in the fine print – it will just tell you how much cheaper and faster arbitration is, which is frequently a lie.
These pre-dispute “agreements” only help the company, and never the resident or the resident’s family.
To be clear, you do not need to sign these things. They do not help you – they can only hurt you. Because of the significant advantage arbitration gives to a company, they will agree to arbitration after something terrible happens if you want it after the fact. There is no reason to sign them before a person is injured or killed.
A new video by a pro-consumer group documents how abusive arbitration can be. In one case, a woman was fired because of her military service, something that is totally illegal. The arbitrator disregarded the law and found for the company. You can watch the brief video here:
When admitting a resident, if you see these documents slipped into the admission paperwork don’t sign them. You don’t have to, and you’re only hurting yourself. If you’ve already singed one, tell the administrator you want to cancel it. No one wants to believe that a resident will hurt in a nursing home or assisted living facility but it happens. If it happens, you want to be sure you have the full might of the law at your disposal.