A medical malpractice case filed against a Las Vegas, Nevada nursing home that alleged that medical malpractice and abuse at the nursing home led to the death of a resident has resulted in an arbitration award in the amount of $4.5 million. The case originally had been filed in Nevada’s state court on January 7, 2010 but was removed to the federal court by the Defendant. The federal court then ordered the case to be arbitrated.
The nursing home claim alleged that the resident, a woman, was admitted to the Defendant’s nursing home on December 12, 2008 for rehabilitation following a stroke she suffered in November, 2008. She stayed in the nursing home until she was transferred to a hospital on December 29, 2008. The woman died in the hospital on December 30, 2008, allegedly due to medical negligence, nursing home abuse, elder abuse, and nursing home negligence.
The parties agreed to submit their claims to private binding arbitration, which the federal court approved. At the conclusion of the arbitration proceeding, the arbitration panel awarded $4.5 million for damages and legal fees. The arbitration panel found that the woman had been a victim of nursing home abuse and nursing home neglect. The attorneys for the woman’s nursing home claim filed papers in the federal court on June 12, 2012, asking the federal judge to approve the private arbitration panel’s award of damages.
It is common for nursing homes to place in their admission documents the requirement that any dispute arising out of the nursing home care will be decided not by a court or a jury but by binding arbitration, including medical malpractice, abuse, and neglect claims. However, many times the nursing home resident or his/her family are too emotionally stressed or upset at the time of admission to either read or comprehend the voluminous admission contracts and related documents that contain a clause requiring binding arbitration and relinquishing their right to have their claims tried before an unbiased jury.
Although federal law and many state laws explicitly favor arbitration to resolve disputes instead of resorting to the courts, the costs of arbitration are usually many times the amount that the injured nursing home resident or his/her family would pay if their claims were decided by a jury rather than by a panel of arbitrators who may be paid upwards of $450 per hour, each, to hear and decide the claims, plus thousands of dollars in filing and administrative fees.
Another concern with private arbitration is that the private arbitrators earn their living by providing their arbitration services — since nursing homes and their corporate owners are often subject to many claims by different residents and therefore participate in many arbitrations over time, they are repeat customers of arbitrators (whereas most nursing home residents and their families would only have one arbitration experience). Therefore, there is a strong economic incentive for the arbitrators to take into consideration their own biased financial interests in hearing and deciding arbitration cases (if certain arbitrators routinely (but justifiably) find against the nursing homes, then the nursing homes will not agree to use the services of those arbitrators in the future).
Our forefathers saw fit to protect each person’s right to a civil jury to decide their disputes by including this important right in our Bill of Rights. Nowhere in the Bill of Rights or in the U.S. Constitution does the word “arbitration” appear or is the right to a jury trial subjucated to arbitration. We have blindly given up our rights and privileges provided to us by our forefathers by allowing laws that require the parties in civil disputes to arbitrate their disagreements instead of having a jury of our peers have the final say.
If you or a loved one have been injured in a nursing home as a result of medical malpractice (medical negligence), elder abuse, or nursing home negligence, you should promptly consult with a local medical malpractice attorney to learn about your rights and responsibilities in the matter.
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