October 6, 2020

The Superior Court of New Jersey Appellate Division (“New Jersey Appellate Court”), in its opinion dated March 3, 2020, affirmed the trial court’s order requiring that a New Jersey nursing home injury claim be arbitrated pursuant to an arbitration agreement signed by the resident’s daughter at the time of admission of her mother to the defendant’s nursing home.

The New Jersey Appellate Court held: “Absent fraud, Lusk’s [the daughter’s] endorsement and signature of the agreement, including the clearly worded arbitration provision, formed a binding agreement … The contract was not unconscionable … the subject matter of the agreement was clearly explained in plain language. Although Lusk signed the agreement during Greenstein’s admission, she conceded she never sought additional time to review the document, did not ask questions of the staff member reviewing the document with her, nor had an attorney review the document, despite the opportunity to do so. The degree of economic compulsion and the public interests affected by the contract were not applicable considerations here.”

The Underlying Facts

Greenstein was admitted to the defendant’s nursing home in 2013 because she suffered from various ailments and required assistance with daily living activities. Greenstein’s daughter, Susan Lusk, accompanied her mother to the defendant’s nursing home on the day of her admission.

Lusk alleged she was separated from her mother and taken to a conference room by a staff member who handed her a large stack of documents to sign. The staff member turned the pages of the document, pointed to them, and instructed Lusk where to sign or initial on the agreement. Lusk alleged she was not given time to read the agreement and the employee never mentioned the arbitration clause or informed her that the document addressed legal matters.

Nonetheless, the agreement contained an arbitration clause. Lusk initialed the page with the arbitration language in three locations. She also signed the end of the agreement. Directly above her signature was the following language: “Signatures. By signing the undersigned intended to be bound by the Agreement, and acknowledge that they have read it, have had all questions posed to the Facility answered to their satisfaction, and have voluntarily agreed to its terms.”

In April 2018, the plaintiff filed a four-count complaint against the defendant in the Law Division alleging two counts of negligence, violation of the New Jersey Nursing Home Responsibilities and Rights of Residents Act, and wrongful death. After filing its answer and exchanging answers to interrogatories, the defendant moved to dismiss the complaint and compel arbitration. The judge concluded that the daughter had authority to sign the document as the responsible party acting on behalf of her mother and therefore granted the defendant’s motion to compel arbitration. The New Jersey Appellate Court affirmed.

Source Estate of Evelyn Greenstein vs. Regency Heritage Nursing and Rehab Center, LLC, Docket No. A-5494-18T3.

If you or a loved one suffered injuries (or worse) while a resident of a nursing home in New Jersey or in another U.S. state due to a nursing home fall, nursing home aspiration, nursing home neglect, nursing home negligence, nursing home abuse, nursing home under-staffing, or the nursing home failing to properly care for a vulnerable adult, you should promptly find a nursing home claim lawyer in New Jersey or in your state who may investigate your nursing home claim for you and file a nursing home claim on your behalf or behalf of your loved one, if appropriate.

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