It is a fairly common practice for nursing homes to require potential new patients and their families to sign agreements saying they will go into arbitration for legal disputes rather than bringing a lawsuit against the facility. In the past these agreements often put limits on the types of damages and amounts of damages a jury could award injured parties in cases of nursing home abuse.
However, this appears to be changing in Florida thanks to Florida nursing home abuse lawyers for Angela Gessa and the estate of Edward Henry Clark. According to The Ledger, in both of those cases, the Florida Supreme Court has rejected parts of the arbitration agreements that limit the abilities of residents to seek punitive damages and pain-and-suffering damages. The ruling states, “(These) limitation of liability provisions, which place a $250,000 cap on non-economic damages and waive punitive damages, violate the public policy of the State of Florida and are unenforceable.”
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Nursing home lobbyists argue the arbitration agreements keep legal costs at a minimum in a time when they are struggling with budget cuts. They also claim the agreements are made easy to understand for residents and their families. Resident advocates disagree, saying residents are often required to sign these agreements without knowledge of what they say.
The court rulings do not eliminate arbitration agreements, but they do restrict them. Judges, not arbitrators, will decide whether or not the agreements violate public policy and are therefore invalid. Additionally, arbitration agreements cannot remain in effect by simply eliminating portions that do violate public policy.