Arbitration Clauses in Nursing Home Cases
The Dickson Firm is committed to each of its clients as well as to the long term pursuit of nursing home cases for the benefit of nursing home residents throughout the State of Ohio.
Unfortunately, there is no financial incentive for nursing homes to provide proper care to their residents.
Nursing homes are reimbursed based on the needs of their residents. Nursing homes fill out a questionnaire known as a Minimum Data Set or an “MDS” for their residents and submit that to the Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services known as “CMS”. That questionnaire evaluates the needs of each resident. Based on the resident's needs, the nursing home is reimbursed by Medicare and Medicaid for the care of each resident. There is no consideration of the quality of care that is being provided by each nursing home. Nursing homes are rated by Medicare and Medicaid on a five star system with five stars being the best and one star being the worst. The worse nursing homes in the State of Ohio receive the exact same reimbursement for the most part for the same resident as the best nursing homes in the State of Ohio. A five star nursing home receives the same reimbursement as a one star nursing home. Therefore, there is no financial incentive to provide better care.
One of our goals here at the Dickson Firm is to make bad care more expensive than good care. If nursing homes provide improper care and cause injury to residents including tragically causing the wrongful death of residents, it is our mission at the Dickson Firm to hold those nursing homes accountable and to make them pay financial compensation to hold them responsible for their actions.
The Ohio Department of Health surveys nursing homes on a roughly annual basis and also in response to complaints. They do have the power to issue financial penalties and fines. And sometimes they do that. But these fines are woefully inadequate to deter bad care in nursing homes. The owners and operators of nursing homes in Ohio make incredible amounts of money. And the fines issued against them by the Ohio Department of Health do not really provide an adequate disincentive to provide improper care.
One of the ways in which the Dickson Firm has changed the way that nursing home litigation is handled in Ohio is our constant opposition to the use of arbitration clauses. Nursing homes often bury an arbitration clause in their admission agreement. Residents and their families unwittingly sign these admission agreements thinking they are simply signing the paperwork necessary to have them admitted into the nursing home. Concealed in that paperwork is often an arbitration clause. Nursing Homes often neglect and abuse their residents, including cases where the nursing home allows employees to assault the residents, allows residents to elope outside of the facility where they ultimately suffer injury and die, neglect their residents such that they develop bed sores or fall and suffer fractures. Residents, or in the case of a wrongful death case, the resident's family, file a lawsuit against the nursing home. The nursing home often tries to avoid the consequences of their negligent care by insisting that these controversies be handled by arbitration.
Oftentimes, the arbitration company named in the arbitration clause is a company with whom the owners and the operators of the nursing home have a relationship. Sometimes these organizations are even corrupt. There have been criminal prosecutions of certain arbitration organizations because of their corruption. Even when they are not corrupt, arbitration prevents the nursing home resident and their family from conducting adequate discovery, issuing subpoenas, and going to the court when there are problems with discovery. Nursing home industry leaders as well as executives with insurance companies that insure nursing homes, have stated publicly that the results of arbitration are typically less than the results of jury trials.
So the purpose of the arbitration clause is to reduce if not eliminate the nursing home's liability for their improper care that they have provided.
The Dickson Firm has been fighting these arbitration clauses since they first started handling nursing home cases decades ago. When the Dickson Firm first started handling nursing home cases, there were very few appellate court cases that had been decided on the issue of nursing home arbitration clauses. Now there are many such cases, and many of those cases are cases that were handled by, argued by, and the favorable opinions achieved by the attorneys of the Dickson Firm, L.L.C. The Dickson Firm is the only law firm who has taken a case involving an arbitration clause in a nursing home admission agreement all the way to the Ohio Supreme Court.
We at the Dickson Firm urge anyone reading this, to never sign an agreement that contains an arbitration clause. Whether it's a nursing home admission agreement, a car rental agreement, a credit card agreement, etc. If you are asked to sign something and it contains an arbitration clause, cross it out. If you are told that you have to sign the agreement as provided, with the arbitration clause, make sure you document that. If you are forced to sign the agreement, if you are not permitted to cross out the arbitration clause, then that is likely an adequate defense if you are ever forced to arbitration in a controversy based on that agreement.
Fighting arbitration clauses is just one of the many ways that the Dickson Firm is dedicated to and devoted to the rights of nursing home residents in Ohio. There are over 70,000 adults living in skilled nursing facilities in the State of Ohio. Ohio has the nation's fifth largest population of nursing home residents after California, Texas, New York and Pennsylvania. Ohio has more than 970 nursing homes. We at the Dickson Firm are dedicated to holding these nursing homes accountable for the care that they provide to their residents. Owners and operators of nursing homes have undertaken a very important job. They have opted to care for our most vulnerable population . Nursing home residents, by definition, typically cannot care for themselves. They are often frail, and often vulnerable, at the mercy of the nursing home employees who are charged with their care. We at the Dickson Firm do not take the position that all nursing homes provide improper care. But we are dedicated to holding those nursing homes that do provide improper care accountable for the consequences of that improper care.
If you or someone you love has been neglected or abused in a nursing home, call us at The Dickson Firm at 1 (800) OHIO LAW. We will always be happy to talk with you. Or, send an email to our founder and senior trial attorney, Blake Dickson, at BlakeDickson@TheDicksonFirm.com.