Arbitrators who decided a nursing home negligence case in Florida allegedly received “secret documents” from the lawyer for the nursing home during the discovery process in the arbitration proceeding. The plaintiff in the arbitration proceeding is seeking her arbitration costs from the arbitrators and to have the arbitration decision in favor of the nursing home vacated.
The Underlying Facts
The daughter of a nursing home resident who died on April 30, 2014 in a Tampa hospital alleged that the Tampa-area nursing home where her mother had been a resident had failed to document and treat her mother’s bedsores (pressure ulcers), thereby leading to complications resulting in sepsis from several open wounds.
The daughter’s claims on behalf of her mother’s estate were subject to the requirement that they be submitted to arbitration. As set forth in the rules applicable to the arbitration process, the parties were required to exchange and submit documents that they intended to rely upon during the arbitration proceeding. The attorneys for the parties exchanged and submitted documents but, according to the plaintiff’s lawsuit subsequently filed against the arbitrators, the attorney for the defendant nursing home secretly submitted to the arbitrators a written report by a medical expert that set forth a timeline of the resident’s medical problems and opined that the resident suffered from wounds related to her alcohol-related illness that included liver disease, and that the resident did not have pressure ulcers or died as a result of complications from pressure ulcers.
Interestingly, the attorney for the nursing home defended his failure to provide the plaintiff with the nursing home expert’s report that was secretly submitted to the arbitrators, alleging that it was “work product” that was not subject to disclosure (the attorney work product privilege/rule provides that, ordinarily, a party may not discover documents and tangible things that are prepared in anticipation of litigation or for trial by or for another party or its representative (including the other party’s attorney, consultant, surety, indemnitor, insurer, or agent) but may seek discovery of such protected materials if the materials are otherwise discoverable and the party shows that it has substantial need for the materials to prepare its case and cannot, without undue hardship, obtain their substantial equivalent by other means).
Nonetheless, the general rule is that a party to a legal proceeding may not secretly submit to the trier of fact any documents or other writings without providing all opposing parties with a copy of same.
If you or a loved one suffered serious injury (or worse) while a resident of a nursing home in Florida or in another U.S. state, you should promptly find a nursing home lawyer in Florida or in your state who may investigate your nursing home claim for you and represent you in a case against a nursing home, if appropriate.
Turn to us when you don’t know where to turn.