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Your Ability to Sue Nursing Homes—Especially In Florida—Is Now Easier

Nursing home abuse and neglect has become a serious issue in this country: According to statistics, one out of every six nursing home residents will experience neglect or abuse at one point or another. Many of these facilities are understaffed and employees lack the training necessary to properly look after their residents, which inevitably leads to neglect or abuse resulting from a lack of supervision and oversight.

Historically, it has, at times, been difficult to obtain justice for these wrongs through the legal system because residents and their families were often forced to sign contracts that contained arbitration clauses, forcing them to resolve any disputes concerning neglect or abuse in arbitration instead of going to court. However, in December, the Florida Supreme Court ruled that residents of nursing homes who lack the capacity to understand and sign these contracts cannot be held accountable under them, and in addition, an agency within the Health and Human Services Department is already on its way to blocking these clauses from nursing home contracts.

Florida Supreme Court Decision

In the recent Florida Supreme Court specific case, the nursing home resident who later suffered from injury due to his medical needs being neglected at the home had his son sign the contract when he entered the home because he allegedly did not have the mental capacity to do so at the time. This is a common occurrence for families who have to check their loved ones into facilities because they require 24-7 supervised care.

However, the court found that the son did not have the authority to sign on behalf of his father because the son did not have power of lawyer at the time he signed. In addition, the facility failed to turn to the courts once they found out that the resident was mentally incompetent to sign relevant documents. According to the Court, the statutory requirements of the legislature make it the responsibility of the facility to ask a resident’s family to designate a representative for the patient and have that representative officially declared as authorized to act on behalf of the resident.

Federal Agency Rule Blocking Mandatory Arbitration Clauses

It isn’t just Florida making progress on allowing nursing home residents to obtain justice in court: In September, an agency within the Health and Human Services Department issued a rule barring any nursing home that received federal funding (which is most, due to Medicare and Medicaid) from requiring residents to solve any disputes in arbitration. Although a federal district court judge in Mississippi issued an injunction blocking the rule in November, the injunction simply postpones the rule from taking effect until the lawsuit is settled.

Fort Lauderdale Nursing Home Abuse Lawyers

If you suspect that a loved one has been neglected or abused in a nursing home—or if you have been subject to abuse in a nursing home or assisted living facility—our Fort Lauderdale nursing home abuse lawyers can help. Contact Friedland & Associates today for a free consultation and we’ll discuss your options.

Resources:

socialjusticesolutions.org/2016/12/08/1-6-nursing-home-residents-experience-neglect-abuse/

nytimes.com/2016/09/29/business/dealbook/arbitration-nursing-homes-elder-abuse-harassment-claims.html

flarecord.com/stories/511049298-nursing-home-residents-unbound-by-unsigned-contracts-says-florida-supreme-court

npr.org/sections/thetwo-way/2016/11/07/501050619/court-blocks-new-nursing-home-rule-from-taking-effect

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