Many nursing homes do not need to worry about breaking laws when they are protected by forced arbitration clauses within their contracts. This form of alternative dispute resolution is putting nursing home residents and their families’ access to justice at risk.
In the case of Elizabeth Barrow’s death at Brandon Woods nursing home in South Dartmouth, Massachusetts, her son is fighting the forced arbitration clause he agreed to when signing admissions paperwork on behalf of his mother. Mrs. Barrow was found murdered by her 97-year-old roommate, after it had become evident to Brandon Woods staff that there were issues of jealousy, paranoia, and disagreements between the two women. Mr. Barrow believes the nursing home was negligent for not separating his mother from a woman who was described by staff as being “at risk to harm herself or others.”
Unlike hundreds of other cases of elder abuse, neglect, and wrongful death which end up in arbitration, Mr. Barrow and his lawyers have argued that “unless family members [have] power of attorney, they [lack] the authority to agree to arbitration.” His case is an important one, as it has already resulted in arbitration agreements signed by family members of nursing home residents being thrown out by appeals courts across the country.
If you are planning to move your parent or loved one into a nursing home, be aware of any legal rights you are signing away within the admissions paperwork.