Arbitration in Indiana Nursing Home Abuse and Neglect Cases

Nursing homes have been under fire lately for the poor level of care they provide to residents. Indeed, by some estimates, one in ten nursing home residents suffer some type of abuse or neglect. In theory, the legal system allows for the victims of Indiana nursing home abuse and neglect to sue the offending nursing homes. However, many Indiana residents are not able to do so because they signed arbitration agreements.

An arbitration agreement is a type of contract by which the parties agree not to file a case in court if a conflict within the scope of the agreement arises. Typically, nursing homes present residents with these agreements at the time of admission. While Indiana skilled care facilities will not necessarily force a resident to sign the agreement, it is not often apparent to the resident that they can decline to sign. If valid and enforceable, an arbitration agreement can prevent a nursing home resident from filing a case in court, forcing them to resolve the matter through the arbitration process.

The enforceability of arbitration contracts is currently a hot topic, and the subject of many court opinions. A recent case illustrates how courts analyze and give effect to arbitration agreements. According to the court’s opinion, the plaintiff filed a wrongful death claim against the defendant nursing home after his father died while in the home’s care. Before the plaintiff’s father was admitted into the home, he signed an arbitration agreement. The agreement contained a “delegation provision” under which the specific arbitrator would determine whether any claim fell within the scope of the arbitration clause.

After the plaintiff filed his claim, the arbitrator determined that it fell within the scope of the arbitration agreement. The plaintiff appealed the ruling to an appellate court, which affirmed. The plaintiff’s main argument was that the arbitration agreement was not enforceable because it was not signed by the owners of the nursing home, and was only enforceable by a signatory to the agreement. Evidently, the agreement was signed by a “representative” of the nursing home. The plaintiff argued that there was no evidence suggesting that the representative was an agent of the nursing home, and thus, the nursing home failed to establish that the agreement was enforceable. However, this argument was not raised until the appeal.

The court rejected the plaintiff’s argument. The court explained that the lower court correctly dismissed the plaintiff’s claim because, at the time, he had not raised his argument against enforceability. The court explained that those arguments that are not raised at the lower-court level are waived, and cannot be considered on appeal.

Are You Disputing the Enforceability of an Indiana Arbitration Agreement?

If you have a loved one in an Indiana nursing home, and you fear that they may have been subjected to abuse or neglect, contact the injury advocates at Parr Richey Frandsen Patterson Kruse. At our Indiana personal injury law firm, we represent nursing home residents and their family members in all types of claims against nursing homes, including those involving complex issues surrounding arbitration provisions. To learn more, call 888-532-7766 to schedule a free consultation today.