Missouri Supreme Court Says Nursing Home Arbitration Clause Unenforceable

The Missouri Supreme Court has ruled that a nursing home could not enforce an arbitration agreement between itself and a patient concerning a wrongful death lawsuit brought by the patient’s family.

Missouri wrongful death

According to court records, Dorothy Lawrence was a patient at Beverly Manor, a nursing home located in Missouri. Her daughter, Phyllis Skoglund, had power of attorney for her mother and signed an arbitration agreement saying that, “any and all claims, disputes and controversies … arising out of, or in connection with, or relating in any way to the Admission Agreement or any service or health care provided by [Beverly Manor] to [Dorothy Lawrence] shall be resolved exclusively by binding arbitration.”

Shortly after being admitted to Beverly Manor, Lawrence died after nursing home staff dropped her. Her family sued the home under Missouri’s wrongful death statute, but Beverly Manor claimed that the arbitration agreement required the parties to arbitrate the matter instead.

The lawsuit made its way through the Missouri court system and the State Supreme Court ruled that the nursing home could not enforce the arbitration agreement against Lawrence’s family; only Lawrence herself was bound by the agreement. In addition, even though Lawrence’s daughter signed the agreement on her behalf, the court found that she only acted as her agent for the purposes of admission and that the agreement could not be extended further.

Legislation introduced to stop mandatory arbitration

Situations like the one above are all too common and many consumer advocate groups and lawmakers believe that nursing home arbitration agreements should not be a condition for admission into a nursing home. Lawmakers addressed the problem by introducing the Fairness in Nursing Home Arbitration Act in May 2008. The Act would prevent nursing homes from requiring potential residents to sign an agreement as a prerequisite to admission in a facility. The Act does not preclude nursing homes and potential residents from agreeing to arbitrate claims – only that nursing homes cannot require it. The Act is still being debated in Congress.

If you or a loved one has been injured due to the negligence of an eldercare facility, contact an experienced elder law attorney Missouri nursing home abuse attorney to discuss your situation and evaluate your options. Consultations are free, without obligation and are strictly confidential.