Florida Appellate Opinion Determines Nursing Home Arbitration Agreement Does Not Prevent Negligence Lawsuit

Nursing homeIf a family member goes into a nursing home, a lot of paperwork must be completed. This can be overwhelming, and one may lose track of everything signed. Several nursing homes require the signature of an arbitration agreement before the resident is admitted. An arbitration agreement is a contract between two parties who agree to see an arbitrator, who is usually picked by the facility, to settle any disputes arising from the resident’s stay at the nursing home. This is in lieu of a traditional lawsuit filed in the state or federal court system.
In Olson v. Florida Living Option (Case No. 2D15-5687), the Second District Court of Appeal reviewed an arbitration agreement and whether the negligence alleged by the estate of the deceased resident fell within the scope of the agreement.

The injured resident was injured while living at his most recent nursing facility. He had previously signed an arbitration agreement at a different assisted living facility in the same retirement community. Following the injury and death of the resident, the estate filed suit in the state court system against the nursing home and its parent company. The defendants moved to compel arbitration, using the signed agreement as proof the two were in the same community and affiliated with each other. The trial court granted the motion, finding that the arbitration agreement extended from the then-current residential facility to all future admissions.

The appellate court listed three things that it must consider in any determination of whether to uphold a motion to compel arbitration:  whether a valid agreement exists, whether an arbitrable issue exists, and whether the right to arbitration was waived. The court noted that, while an arbitration agreement can benefit a third party, like an affiliate nursing home, the nursing home company failed on the question of whether or not the scope extended to a third party. The court looked at the relationship between the contract and the claim at issue. The court felt the language of the arbitration agreement was broad in its scope regarding events, using “arising out of and relating to” language, but it limited the agreement to “this Facility.” The second facility to which the resident went did not have its own arbitration agreement, nor did it refer to one in the contract. Since there was no dispute that the second residence was a “separate facility,” the court determined the argument to extend the arbitration agreement to the injury at the second residence failed. The order compelling arbitration was reversed, and the case was remanded back to the trial court, where the estate of the deceased resident can pursue their original negligence action.

The Florida wrongful death attorneys at Donaldson & Weston have the experience you need to pursue and maximize damages from any medical care residential facility. Our lawyers can help analyze an arbitration clause and see whether or not it applies to your relative or you. For a free, confidential consultation, call our office at 772-266-5555 or 561-299-3999.

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